Because we are currently obsessed with remakes, reboots, and franchises, it is refreshing to hear of an original, highly acclaimed film – and queer-themed, too! God’s Own Country, a British movie that has been getting a lot of awards and attention and due to the premise – a gay romance between two blue-collar men that’s set on a rural farm – and comparisons to Brokeback Mountain. More to that later. It’s won a directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival and many LGBTQ film fests, from Frameline in San Francisco to Honolulu’s Rainbow Film Festival have named it Best Feature Film.
The film opened in the U.K. this weekend and has been getting rapturous reviews, currently holding a 97% Fresh rating from critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. BBC.com gave the film five out of five stars. “One of the most assured British debuts of recent years,” raved Sight & Sound.
The story centers around two men, Johnny and Gheorghe, the former being a sexually-repressed drunken internalized homophobe, and the latter a nurturing Romanian farmhand. Johnny’s sex life is mostly the “anon m4m” variety, and even when he meets Gheorghe, their first fuck is decidedly violent, but eventually Gheorghe brings Johnny to terms with his sexuality and the pair fall in love.
First-time director Francis Lee has said that there have been many initial comparisons to Brokeback Mountain, but not to “dismiss” his film so quickly. Brokeback Mountain was a sweet, sweeping, and beautiful film. Wyoming served as Brokeback’s backdrop, with bright blue skies and giant, puffy white clouds painting the horizon of the high prairies of the Rocky Mountains. God’s Own Country has been described as bleak, gritty, and unsympathetic, matching its setting in the North Yorkshire Moors. That brooding, North England locale has been described as a character in its own right, as the light and grey skies set the tone for the film. Additionally, the film is set in the present day, unlike Brokeback, which was set in 1963. Its present day setting allows us to explore more than the physical aspect of the relationship, since the simple concept of a male couple is no longer a particularly daring statement. Native Yorkie Johnny and migrant worker Gheorghe create their own political statement about the distancing of Johnny’s generation of Englanders and the local farming business and the vital role that migrant workers play in its survival, the reason it has been called a love story for the age of Brexit.
The film opens in NYC October 26 and expands nationwide in early November. Watch the trailer below.