God’s Own Country (2017; Francis Lee)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, November 10, at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.
Postcard-worthy slow cinema from actor-turned-auteur Lee, a bruising but underwhelming love story set amongst Yorkshire sheep farmers. With his friends all gone off to college, angry young man Johnny (Josh O’Connor) gets stuck assisting his ailing father (Ian Hart, awkwardly theatrical compared to his underacting co-stars) with their failing farm, numbing his pain through alcohol-soaked nights and brisk sexual encounters with anonymous men.
That all changes when handsome, no-nonsense Romanian immigrant Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) arrives on the farm, arousing resentment from the racist townsfolk and simply arousing Johnny. After a lifetime of abuse from his father, Johnny finally experiences real tenderness with Gheorghe, but his self-destructive instincts inevitably kick in, jeopardizing their relationship.
I liked the love story at the heart of God’s Own Country, but the film is just as plodding and impenetrable in its shaky-cam stoicism as Yorgos Lanthimos’ polar-opposite The Killing of a Sacred Deer was with its antiseptic precision.