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God’s Own Country by Francis Lee, or: Landscapes of a Passion
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of December 7, 2017) Is God’s Own Country, the feature film by English screenplay writer and director Francis Lee, really as good as we may assume based on the many awards it has received? In most European countries, the movie screenings started back in October.
The following video interview by Mike Elshof shows director Francis Lee and the two main actors Alec Secăreanu and Josh O’Connor.
Awards received in 2017
Even before the official screenings, God’s Own Country received many awards in international film festivals (e.g. Berlinale, Honolulu, San Francisco, Toronto) – and, surprisingly, not only in gay movie festivals. In fact, the movie does not exclusively aim for an LGBT audience. Here is just a short list of awards:
Sundance Film Festival: Best (foreign) Director (Special jury award, Category World Cinema Dramatic).
International Film Festival Edinburgh: Michael Powell Award (Best British Film).
Dinard Festival of British Films: Hitchcock in Gold (Best Film).
Berlinale: Harvey Award of the Readers of Männer magazine (Panorama section).
Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival: Best Film.
Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival: Audience Award.
Toronto, Inside Out LGBT Film Festival: Bill Sherwood Award (Best First Feature).
What is the movie about?
The story happens on a farm in Yorkshire. The days there are determined by live on the farm and the landscapes of Yorkshire that seem limitless yet limit the horizon of the two main characters.
One of the two, Johnny (Josh O’Connor), was born there. The other one, Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu) is a Romanian seasonal worker hired on the farm owned by Johnny’s parents. Over time, the two young men get to know each other better, and the time spent on the farm is no longer reduced to sheep-shearing and farm work…
So, is it some kind of Brokeback Mountain with European farm boys instead of American cowboys? Not quite.
In fact, both movies are (gay) love stories although they address the general public. However, with Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx actually created a novel later brought to the screen by Ang Lee, whereas Francis Lee recreated his own experience for the script and the movie version of God’s Own Country. He really spent his own childhood and youth on a farm in Yorkshire, coincidentally located close to the landscapes shown in the movie.
How good is the movie?
As always, this is a matter of personal taste. However, the many awards received let us assume that it is a very well produced and wonderfully acted movie: Highly realistic, sparing of words but very profound in turn.
It is not important whether it is a gay or straight love story – what really counts is the love story itself. Francis Lee analyses the emotional landscapes through the two characters’ acting, the camera images and the barren but beautiful countryside of Yorkshire.
This is definitely a movie worth seeing on the big screen, and maybe the list of awards is not final yet.
Finally, here is a video in which Francis Lee introduces himself on the occasion of the Bafta Award ceremony, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards (or Oscars):