Here at Collab HQ (it’s more of a state of mind than an actual place given that we’re camped on separate continents), we love to devastate ourselves. Sometimes we favour fluff just to get over the utter weep-fests we’ve put ourselves through.
Although this week’s movie might not have had that exact effect on me, it did leave me with a heavy lump in my chest. It was a movie I felt profoundly and I’m so glad we finally got round to it. Thank you Netflix for coming through.
God’s Own Country (2017)
Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives with his dad and gran on a cattle farm in Yorkshire. Rural life is fucking tough, his father isn’t that well and Johnny dulls his pain and loneliness with booze and secret liaisons with boys down the local (I feel ya, Johnny). Delivered home puking most nights by furious cab drivers, Johnny’s folks just think he’s irresponsible and don’t understand him at all. This just exacerbates his feeling of isolation and when he does bump into friends from his past, he’s bitter because they’ve moved on and left him behind.
When it becomes apparent that the farm will need more help during lambing season, they hire Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) who quickly becomes a god send, much to Johnny’s irritation. The pair doesn’t hit it off immediately and Johnny burns bridges in the first few days by referring to Gheorghe as ‘gyppo’.
While Gheorghe pretty much just gets on with it, even around the awkward energy between Johnny and his family, he doesn’t take kindly to Johnny’s racist attitude and nips it in the bud quickly. One weekend, away from the farm but very much on farming duties, the boys come head to head and the friction that’s been building between them explodes. What begins with a fight, ends in rough sex in the mud.
After this encounter, the two barely speak about it though there has been an unmistakable shift between them. Later that night, they fuck again, this time with a little more tenderness.
Back at the ranch, the sex continues but it also becomes more than that. Johnny invites his lover to share his bed in the farmhouse but he declines, preferring to stay in the caravan.
As Johnny and Gheorghe get closer, Johnny’s father suffers another stroke and the future of the farm is placed in Johnny’s calloused hands. When he discusses the prospect of Gheorghe staying on and permanently running the farm with him, Gheorghe expresses some concerns, namely living and working together simultaneously.
This sends Johnny into a tailspin and he acts out enough to send Gheorghe packing. Gheorghe also suffers some predjudice in the pub which doesn’t help.
Johnny’s nan Deidre (Gemma Jones) blames him for fucking up again and wonders how they’ll manage now. When Johnny goes to see his father about the future, he’s surprisingly understanding and gives his blessing for Johnny to do what he needs to to be happy – can you guess what that is?
Will Johnny do the right thing and make a success of his future finally? What do you think?
This film is gorgeous to look at but it’s all in the glances our lovers share, in the secret looks and the slightest of gestures. It’s in the loneliness, the isolation and the ache of not being able to be open to who they are – until they can be open with each other and I really felt it all.
The performances are heartfelt, while the pace of the film is quite slow which I didn’t mind. Not once did this feel like a slog and I think there’s a skill in that kind of film making. The movie very subtley addresses the topic of homophobia but more so in the fact that it isn’t talked about and everything has to be secret. While I don’t remember any out and out prejudice, this is only because Johnny’s not out publicly.
It was heart-warming to learn that perhaps Johnny’s family knew more than he thought about his ‘secret’ and that in their own sweet way they just wanted what was best for him. As for Gheorghe, we get little insight into his own life in Romania, something I would have liked but I understand wasn’t strictly necessary.
All in all this is a nice love story that felt authentic – and yes, it almost finished me.