Four Frames: God’s Own Country (Francis Lee, 2017)

 

Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. – 1 Corinthians 13

In Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005), the course of true love never did run smooth.

In Francis Lee’s multi-award-winning God’s Own Country (2017), a film predictably if unhelpfully tagged the “Brexit Brokeback,” things are similarly complicated.

A Romanian migrant worker arrives in Yorkshire to graft on a farm, and homegrown Johnny finds his view of the world, and his own life’s possibilities, transformed. Eventually.

The not always smooth journey of Gheorghe and Johnny’s (Alec Secareanu and Josh O’Connor) relationship takes place against the titular backdrop, a landscape as wild and harsh as it is evocative and soulful.

Debut feature writer-director Lee tells his sparse but splendid tale with a carefully detailed and sustained authenticity that, from the outside looking in, seems to be the real deal.

Lee, for instance, insisted his cast wore only clothes that could be sourced from local shops that workers in the area would have access to.

Before Gheorghe’s arrival, Johnny was a loner who indulged in casual sex with no apparent concept of being part of a sustained, committed relationship.

But the newcomer shows Johnny his own surroundings in a way he has never seen them before, and opens his eyes to a future he could not previously have imagined, or accepted.

Dialogue reinforces the “less is more” strategy, where a little says a whole lot: “No, I’m fine.” “We’ll get by.” “Thank you.”

But sometimes it’s best when they say nothing at all – every nuanced look from veteran supporting actors Ian Hart and Gemma Jones; Johnny and Gheorghe’s faces lit up after a phone call from the hospital.

A freshly ironed and folded pair of pyjamas; a can of lager, returned to the fridge unopened, signifying much more than a casual change of mind.

Most notably, a scattered pile of cigarette ends, denoting the passage of time – a pile of cigarette ends that say “I will wait for you.”

Love bears all things, and hopes all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13

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