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 near 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 sheepherder’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 experience as both an agricultural journalist and a rural affairs specialist reporter in the Yorkshire Dales for almost 20 years) invariably hard working, down to Earth people who are doing their best to keep alive a tradition which has shaped the landscape for millennia.

In the Saxby’s 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.

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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 landscape which had begun to feel alienating.

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

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Five brutal heart breaking stars

A Walk Through Fire (Through Hell and Back Book 1)A Walk Through Fire by Felice Stevens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Felice Stevens you know how to wrench every but of emotion from someone. This book is brutal and heart breaking but it’s also uplifting and heart warming.

It’s about pain and loss, joy and hope, second chances at life and new beginnings. It’s about finding family and learning how to let yourself be loved.

Asher and Drew are a magnificent pairing, birth men bowing under the weight of their past, both men capable of bearing the weight of the other’s fears.

That I could get teary about what happens to one of the secondary characters is testimony to the world building skills of the author.

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Olive Juice – I love you, you broken and beautiful book

Olive JuiceOlive Juice by T.J. Klune

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew. I knew what it would be and, even knowing, (okay correctly guessing), didn’t stop the impact of this book one little bit.

I’m not going to spoiler in my review, I’m not going to try and summarise without revealing anything. I’m just going to say read this book. Do not try and find out what happens, you will kick yourself if you do. This book needs to be read blind.

This is a book about love, this is a book about pain, this is a book about expectations, second chances, fears, regrets, past lives lived. But, most of all, this is a book about hope.

At the end, when Pandora had opened the box and let out all the evils into the world, hope remained. This book is a powerful reminder to never let it go.

T J, I salute your incredible skill with words that you can take them and craft them into something so beautiful.

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Emotional powerhouse from Hart and McCormack

Weight of the WorldWeight of the World by Riley Hart and Devon McCormack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Achingly beautiful story of loss and hope

I had this book in my TBR pile for weeks because I knew from friends reviews it was going to be a hard read but eventually I picked it up and here we are.

Individually Riley and Devon are two incredibly talented authors but put them together like this and it’s a powerhouse of emotions and superb storytelling.

This isn’t a romance in the traditional sense, but it very much is a book about love and hope, even in the bleakest of times.
It doesn’t mess about in how it deals with the black dog of depression and mental illness and there’s a fair number of harsh moments which could be difficult to read for anyone who’s ever had to get up close and personal with it.

But it does end with an epilogue that offers hope, hope for a better future, hope that the right help can be found and hope that each individual can find the other perfect person with which to make their whole, flawed as they may be.

Read it and weep, but weep for all the joy it also brings, the laughter, the fun, the day to day trivialities, the living of a life.

And the cover, that strength and support it shows, is absolutely perfect.

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