Is Alec Secareanu gay?
At the latest when Gheorghe is skilfully pulling the skin off a dead lamb or Johnny is giving birth to a cow, the viewer asks himself: Is this a documentary about the tough farming life in Northern England or is it really a movie? If the now somewhat worn-out term “authentic” applies, then it applies to this film.
In Francis Lee's autobiographical feature film debut everything seems to be undisguised, genuine and truthful: this stunning and at the same time inhospitable, almost deserted landscape in West Yorkshire; the barren, relentless life on the small farms like those that Johnny (Josh O’Connor) has had to look after all by himself since his grumpy father suffered a stroke.
The rough weather, the loneliness and poverty - all of this seems to have shaped the people here. You don't talk a lot, especially not about feelings. Johnny uses the drive to the cattle market in the nearest town for quick gay sex in a men's toilet and otherwise drowns his dissatisfaction in alcohol.
From the first minute he distrusted the seasonal worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), whom his father hired. For Johnny, this Romanian guest worker is just a "gypsy". Johnny, one might assume, voted for Brexit and maybe even for UKIP. But this migrant does not put up with everything, more than that: He helps Johnny to save the farm. And just as the topic of xenophobia is dealt with unobtrusively and rather subliminally, a single sentence from Gheorghe is enough for Francis Lee to indicate homophobia in his home country. And Johnny's grandmother doesn't need much more to make her grandson understand that she has recognized what has developed between him and the seasonal worker and that she accepts this.
Every gesture, no matter how small, reveals more than words could express. How these two men approach each other, how Gheorghe manages to break open this hard emotional armor that surrounds Johnny, is a downright painful process even for the viewer. This is not only heartfelt, but also a great staging and acting achievement. After "Beautiful Thing", "Pride" and "Weekend" there is now a British film for the gay all time favorites.
PS: And if you are wondering why the two main actors are so skilled at repairing stone walls and slaughtering sheep - Francis Lee had given you a week-long internship on location in preparation. Very successful as you can see.
God’s Own Country,
USA 2016, directed by Francis Lee, with Josh O ’Connor and Alec Secareanu (photo), from 26.10. in the cinema
Preview at MonGay, 23.10., 10 p.m., cinema
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