An emotional romance set in rural England, God’s Own Country is, according to Lee, one of the best films of 2017. Review after the jump.
There’s a simple pitfall in romance that often misdirects the story’s intentions; forbidden love. Sure, for a romantic story to work on some dramatic level there likely has to be some sort of obstacle to overcome, but often the writers will choose that obstacle to be something beyond the characters’ control, never questioning their love and often taking any accountability in how a relationship can break down away from them.
In God’s Own Country, perhaps more than most films, it was crucial that this couldn’t be the case for the film to work. A grounded, rural setting with an extensive focus on the hardship of the work involved and how that lays heavily on the shoulders of our restless protagonist Johnny captures a sense of realism both in how this character lives a real life and how that real life defines the character. And in a realistic setting, romance is often not defined by what other people say and do, but what we do within the romance ourselves; mercifully – brilliantly – God’s Own Country makes no such misstep.
It’s fair to say as well that the film had every chance to make this a forbidden love; in the society of 2017, especially in the UK and likely in the patriarchal-heavy farming landscape, homosexual relationships – with an immigrant no less – makes for some on-the-pulse commentary material. Instead, director/writer Francis Lee ingeniously paints this “controversy” into the background without ever taking away the focus of the story: these are two men with baggage trying to make a relationship work, and that’s plenty of drama as is, thank you very much.
Up close and lingering handhelds keeps us personal with the characters and their work, teases of imagery like scorched earth and dead butterflies gives us our extensive metaphorical readings and, most importantly, a keen eye for subtle, emotionally-stifled scenes keeps the heart racing as you hold on to the hope, much like the characters themselves, that somehow this will all work out.
A fantastic, universally-applicable movie and easily one of the best of the year.