God’s Own CountryFrancis Lee (UK 2017)Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu
viewed Tyneside Cinema 5 Sept 2017; ticket £9.75
pot noodle country
Francis Lee has taken a couple of leaves (and then some) out of the present day lexicon of film making cliches.
As in Park’s 2016 movie the Handmaiden,so God’s Own Country is bulked out with extended longueurs of body flesh shots.As in Park’s movie so in Lee’s the long sex act sequences have little purpose other than permitting the camera and editor to help the producer fulfill their durational contracts. Without use of critical intelligence cinema reduces sex to a banality, a series of fabrications: faked gestures, faked grunts and whimpers, a carnality played out to the camera as it creeps and crawls round the body and body parts, driven at best by the illusion that the shots are transgressive, (which they are not) and at worst by a plea for audience indulgence.
Lee’s film is also chocka full of dreaded landscape cliches.These are much loved by filmmakers such as Terrance Mallick and his myriad imitators who evince the specious belief that landscape in itself means something.That by cutting to landscape you can invoke for the audience a range of existential emotions that express the unsayable.This is of course a wonderful solution for the feckless and lazy film maker who can order the camera to be pointed at a lone tree on the moor, a cloud closed sky or a rough sea and hope they get away with the suggestion of some deeper meaning. Time was when film makers filmed trains entering tunnels at high speed as a metaphore for penetrative sex. (only Woody Allan can get away with this type of thing)Employing ’scape shots have the same level of originality and the same misguided opportunism; and also at this point only a Woody allen can get away with it.
Viewing God’s Own Country despite all its sheep shots, the general level of the acting resembles a group of misplaced thespians stuck out in a field and asked to improvise. Inevitable that the most actors can achieve in such situations is a groping after stereotypes. Lee’s simulation of cold comfort farm, his simulation of the stroke afflicted farmer,his simulation of sex, never rise above the level of the mundane mis-representation.
The script is wooden occassionally and hilariously giving the the poor Gheorghe lines such as: “In my country spring is so beautiful.”There are other lines from the other actors that match this level of banality. Perhaps because the actors are so insecure in their Yorkie dialect, they often swallow mutter mangle their lines incomprehensivly.It doeon’t matter: they have nothing to say.
I suppose that God’s Own Country is supposed to be a tale of the redemptive power of gender identity honesty. The coming out and embracing your self’s sexuality.The trouble is that Lee’s film is simplistic and smug and dull.God’s own Country is to sex and relationships what Pot Noddles are to food.And besides pissing shots and sheeps backsides shots, there area lot of pot needles in this movie.