Before I talk about what the movie possessed and why it’s showcase of the correct amount of effort is brilliant, let me just tell what an amazing cinematic experience the feature was. God’s Own Country transcended my mind in a very painless manner and created that heaven-like window of pure vulnerability to blow me by. It’s beautiful, effectively quiet and possesses its greatest strength in its cutting rawness.
It’s a story of Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) – a young farmer in rural England. He lives with his father Martin Saxby (Ian Hart) and his grandmother Deidre (Gemma Jones) on their family farm. Due to a stroke the former recently suffered and the latter’s old age, much of the work on and off the farm is on the shoulders of Johnny. While he rarely complains and has adjusted to the lack of life in his living (or vice versa), his frustrations lead him to strange encounters. Alcohol and subsequent sex sessions with local males in trucks and toilets – all part of it.
Soon and subtly, comes Alec Secăreanu’s Georghe as Saxby’s temporary on farm help. The calmest of the four characters, heart-warmingly soft and uprightly principled – he sparks the small plot this movie enjoys.
A scene which sums up my understanding of the intertwining themes of the movie is when Johnny speaks back to his disabled father in a storage room on the farm. He is late for a task of importance and when his father confronts him about it, Johnny reasons back. As for the cause of his delay was simple and not ethically incorrect, the consequence was letting his father down. The dilemma, though, wasn’t that John couldn’t decide whether the task deserved importance, it was more about the consensus that he didn’t get that privilege.
The movie separated the two worlds for me. The first – the big spherical hellhole with the symbolic cars, traffic, jobs, heartbreak, and survival. The common conventional look at the atmosphere that surrounds our lives. The second and the primary – our world. Waking up at a particular side of the bed, certain shops we cross on our way to work, people we know we will meet, people we haven’t met in a long time, people we account for, mood swings, late dinners and back to our side of the bed. In this unidirectional monotonous procedure of existence, we sub-consciously choose to blend the two worlds. Where the clusters of our emotions fail to seclude themselves from being mingled with the products of our environment is a line too frail.
The reason I talk about it now is that Johnny Saxby lived his first world through his second. Whether it was actual geographical distance or just psychological in the background, our protagonist had adjusted to it. And that is where the doubts creep in. Saxby lived with his heart in his eyes and those slowly matured in a character development too kind for our conscience.
God’s Own Country, unlike most movies, is not a journey or even an experience. It is an understanding, or the lack of it, of newfound realisations. Writer and director – Francis Lee – reflects inner conflict on screen with finesse. His actors help him and the sheer naturalism of the movie creates its own emotions. In its finest moments, the movie is better than that Planet Earth trailer you never saw.
The film thrives on relatability and, for a brief last half an hour, kills the gap between reality and cinema. It’s effortless portrayal of small dilemmas and smaller choices drive its story. Through the scenic beauty of rural England, it locates us in our two separate worlds. And, this time consciously, chooses to diffuse the two.