Tag Archives: film

Yorkshire’s landscape adds the final character to a quartet of stunning performances

DVD case for God's Own CountryI will hold my hand up from the start and say I live in one of the places where they filmed this, a story which is as much about emotions as it is about farming and the harsh beauty of the Yorkshire landscape.

So, personal Yorkshire girl interest aside, this is still a masterful piece of storytelling which accurately portrays the vast bleak landscapes of West Yorkshire which are so intrinsically linked with the agricultural heritage which created them – the dry stone walls, the crumbled shepherd’s cottages, the farms which are desperately fighting to stay viable.

Farmers, and hill farmers in particular, don’t swan around in brand new Range Rovers and speak with plummy accents, they’re (and yes, I speak from personal experience as both an agricultural journalist and a rural affairs specialist reporter working at extended periods in the Yorkshire Dales during an almost 20 year career) invariably hard-working, down to Earth people who are doing their best to keep alive a tradition which has shaped the landscape for a millennia and beyond.

In the Saxby family, Francis Lee drew not only on his own experiences growing up on a working farm in West Yorkshire, but he accurately depicts the brutal realities of daily life battling the elements in a part of the country which – while on the doorstep of the big cities – is still isolated and isolating.

Johnny’s brief emotionless encounters at the auction mart and in the toilets of a pub are his only break from a life in which he has only his Nan and his disabled father as a constant presence.


Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu

When Gheorghe, an itinerant Romanian farm worker arrives to help with the lambing season, Johnny is resentful and bitter, thinking all his efforts to keep the farm operating are going unrecognised.

Their first encounters are silent, fraught with tension and eventually explode into a sexual lustful exchange born out of loneliness and frustration.

But, as with the landscape which slowly reveals its beauty, so does this relationship change and, under the direction of Lee, the camera shows Johnny opening up as much as the vista does.

It’s a glorious film and thoroughly deserving of all the praise it has been receiving.

The acting all round is first rate, helmed as this is by a cast of four really – the superb Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu bring to life the two contrasting men at the heart of the narrative.

Gemma Jones excels in a role which sees her forsaking her usual “upper class” parts to provide a constant presence of the stoic Yorkshire woman on whose shoulders most of these farms rest while Ian Hart is almost unrecognisable as the closed off farmer coping with the after effects of a stroke, long abandoned by Johnny’s mother and incapable of communicating with his son other than through orders.

God’s Own Country, as the county is so fondly referred to by us natives, has been – I think unfairly – compared to Brokeback Mountain.

Unfairly, imho, because livestock elements notwithstanding, the relationship at the centre of each film is quite different. Johnny and Gheorghe aren’t in the closet, hiding their sexuality from wives and friends, even if they’re not openly gay, and there is no conflict other than the pressures of trying to run a farm in the wilds of West Yorkshire.

The same narrative would have worked irrespective of the sexuality of the two leads, it was about an emotional awakening and a rediscovery of the love of farming and for a landscape which had begun to feel alienating.

It stands in its own right as a piece of beautiful writing and exquisite cinematography.

Private Romeo shines a light on young love


A clever retelling of Romeo & Juliet set within the closeted confines of a military academy for young cadets. While the drama of the star-crossed lovers is played out in the classroom, Sam/Romeo and Glenn/Juliet find themselves falling in love.

This is beautifully made, with some real stand out performances, Hale Appelman’s Queen Mab speech is superbly done, an evocative paean to this mysterious creature but also a perfect demonstration of Mercutio’s narcotic state and a perhaps repressed desire to impress Romeo.

Appelman also gets the meaty dream speech and a powerful confrontation with Bobby Moreno’s Tybalt in the gym which gives the hard edged conflict between “warring” factions necessary for this play.
However, the heart of the film is the romance between Seth Numan and Matt Doyle’s two young cadets, falling head over heels without thought of the consequences of their actions at a time when DADT was still very much in full force (at the time the film was made).

They come together for a brief moment, are separated due to conflict and pass out from a cocktail of drugs purloined from Friar Laurence in the chemistry lab (a nicely understated performance from Adam Barrie).

But the real star of this film is the devotion to the original material. The Bard is not tampered with except to move dialogue around to place in different acts. While roaming down a corridor looking for a hiding Romeo, Benvolio (Sean Hudock) and Mercutio still speak of trees not classroom doors, Juliet remains a she, as does Nurse (a comedic tour de force from Chris Bresky).

With Charlie Barnett rounding out the cast of just eight as the cadet left in charge/Prince Escalus, Alan Brown’s direction gives this film a lilting feel which ebbs and flows around the darker side of Shakespeare’s play. Alongside the Original score composed by Nicholas R. Wright are also a couple of top tunes from indie band Bishop Allen.

Get it on Amazon here: Private Romeo