Release Date: 1st September 2017 (UK Release)
Running Time: 105 minutes
A young Yorkshire farmer battles loneliness before finding romance in this directorial debut from Francis Lee.
Johnny Sexton (Josh O’Conner) lives on a Yorkshire farm with father, Martin, and Nan, Deidre. His father’s stroke has left him increasingly responsible for the day to day working of the farm, a task we quickly find out is increasingly at odds with his binge drinking and sexual exploits with other men. An emotionless tryst with an apprentice Auctioneer in the back of a cattle van leaves him late home and leaves his struggling father to cope with a pregnant heifer, the result being a dying calf which Johnny is forced to dispatch with a pellet gun by his angry father.
Johnny has lost many friends to University, and the constant nagging at the farm is driving him further into self destruction. His treatment of new farm hand, hard working Romanian migrant Gheorghe (the excellent Alec Secareanu), does not give much room for sympathy.
The two men share a few nights lambing in the “Top Field”. Whether it’s the diet of instant noodles or the bleak weather but Gheorghe sees something we can’t in Johnny and the two start a passionate, intense relationship. Johnny’s rough lovemaking gradually tempered by his tender lover. As the two grow closer, Martin’s health worsens and the young men’s relationship is tested to breaking point as Johnny struggles with responsibility and his burgeoning emotions for the Romanian.
This is a tender, romantic story full of real feeling with excellent performances from the limited cast. O’Conner, as Johnny, has a limited script but wordlessly conveys Johnny’s struggle with perfectly judged emotion. Wonderfully paced throughout, Francis Lee uses the farm setting to expertly control the action and move the romance front and centre of the story. Yorkshire itself shines throughout, offering contracts of bleak desolation and beauty.
The one problem throughout though is that Johnny’s character offers little in the way for the viewer to connect with. His loneliness, lack of love from a broken family and isolation all offer reasons for his behaviour, but one can’t help but wonder what Gheorghe sees in him. Even as the film draws to a climax his desperate attempts to win Gheorghe’s love are selfish and clumsy.
Ultimately this is a film about hope, and boy it delivers.