Review: God’s Own Country / Kena

This film is almost Brokeback Mountain set in my granddad’s backyard. Okay, not quite. There’s more than that – it’s not a film about homosexual romance, to me this film encompasses the transition from young adult to adult.

For John ‘Johnny Boy’, the monotonous farm life is frustratingly lonely, and the familial tension from his dad and grandma whom he lives with is reaching breaking point. John spends each day working on the family farm, and each night getting so totally trashed at the town pub that the taxi driver home just dumps his groaning carcass on the driveway. From the beginning, we are introduced to Johnny’s homosexuality, which is rather cold and rough, and with no affection or seeming romanticism about it. The introduction of Romanian worker Gheorghe initially only serves as a medium through which John can relinquish some of his pent-up emotions, particularly through racial slurs. Eventually, these aggravations move Gheorghe to more vehemently defend himself as the two are camped up in another paddock, and there’s a short fight in the mud which leads to shockingly violent sex, followed by silence and blank stares. No, this is not a film about gay love. The film follows on from there, with each farm task the two complete together – feeding the cows, mending the fence, rebuilding the wall, delivering lambs – developing their relationship and developing John’s understanding and acceptance of the world and his place in it. With each task that was done, I felt a small catharsis even knowing there were numerous more to get done soon after.

The setting – rural Yorkshire – took me instantly back to my granddad’s. The cold, the dew, the green, the overcast, the accents, the hostility, the pub. I burst out laughing in the screening room (when Johnny said “I’m goin’ t’pub”, because my cousin has said the exact same thing in the exact same accent).

Another note to make is the music – I was so shocked by the first piano chord of the whole movie because only then did I notice the lack of music up until that point, which was well over an hour in. It explained why watching this movie had made me feel so raw and naked and on the spot, because we as the audience had no musical direction as to how we should feel. Up until that point we were entirely reliant on the characters’ emotions (as they seldom spoke aloud) to know how to react to a scene or a line. It really worked, and I enjoyed that thoroughly. As for title mentions (I always get excited when the title is mentioned in dialogue or a shot, if it’s not an obvious title like Bridget Jones’ Diary, for want of a better example), there was no verbal mention, but that was nice.

There was a short scene of John and Gheorghe appreciating the beauty of the rustic landscape somewhere along in their relationship, which despite the evident freezing temperature of their situation evoked a natural peace. I really enjoyed this film, and can’t wait to pick the brain of Director Francis Lee soon.

Kena.

Gods’s Own Country is screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

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