What if Brokeback Mountain had taken place on the Yorkshire moors? That’s God’s Own Country in 11 words, as John Saxby (Josh O’Connor) begins a torrid, dangerous affair with a Romanian farmhand (Alec Secareanu) who’s been hired to help out on his father’s property for a week.

We know from an early scene at a cow auction that John has a way of catching another man’s eye, but that he isn’t much for talk afterwards. We also see that he’s a hard drinker, with wicked hangovers to match.

And he’s casually racist, though not very bright; when he sees Gheorghe Ionescu’s dark skin he asks if the man’s a “Paki.” Told that he’s Romanian, John nods knowingly: “Gypsy.” But in spite of this uncharitable first meeting, something sparks when they take an overnight trip to mend a fence; first rough, then increasingly tender. (And, just so you know, quite graphic.)

It doesn’t hurt that Gheorghe is a deft hand on the farm, able to help a sheep give birth, ensure the survival of a runt, and even make cheese. But while John’s aging parents are thankful for the help, they start to look askance at the way the two young men are getting on. So do the locals down at the pub.

Writer/director Francis Lee is primarily an actor, though he’s made a few short films closely connected to his West Yorkshire homeland. God’s Own Country is a love letter to the land, but also to an unconventional romance, struggling against intolerance.

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