The sometimes impenetrable Yorkshire accents in the English drama "God's Own Country" are still less thick than its central character, Johnny Saxby. Played by the young actor Josh O'Connor of the British TV series "The Durrells of Corfu," Johnny is something of a blockhead: a gay 20-something who, when he meets — and falls for — the Romanian dreamboat (Alec Secareanu) who has taken a temporary job on his father's sheep farm, proceeds to do everything possible to wreck the relationship.
Secareanu's Gheorge would be a catch even if he didn't look like a rock star in feces-stained coveralls. He speaks in a sexy accent and is a jack-of-all trades around the farmhouse, delivering baby lambs, mending fences, making cheese, charming Johnny's father and grandmother (Ian Hart and Gemma Jones) and teaching his host family's stubbornly ungrateful son to see the beauty in his own back yard.
That isn't the only lesson Gheorge offers Johnny, who, before the arrival of the slightly older — but vastly more mature — migrant worker had been stuck in an endless cycle of work dodging, binge drinking, anonymous sex in men's rooms and vomiting. In a handful of scenes that alternate between raw passion and tenderness, Gheorge teaches Johnny how to make love — in the true sense of the word. (For Johnny, sex has always been transactional, not emotional. As a term of endearment, he calls Gheorge a "f-----.")
The film by writer-director Francis Lee, who grew up on a Yorkshire farm before turning to acting — and, later, filmmaking — is sweet, even if Johnny is not. "You can be a right pain in the a--, John Saxby, and not in a good way," says one of Johnny's friends while home from college. It's not a particularly sharp observation. Johnny's shortcomings are all the more apparent in contrast to Gheorge's good qualities.
Perhaps surprisingly, "God's Own Country" isn't a coming-out tale. Johnny may not know what to do with his sexuality, but he isn't exactly closeted. Refreshingly, there is no scene of gay bashing, just Johnny's own brutish, slightly feebleminded approach to physical connection.
After Johnny has nearly blown things with Gheorge by reverting to his bad habits, Lee, who won a directing prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, finds a way to end the film on a hopeful, if somewhat implausible, note. It's easy to understand why Johnny would go running after Gheorge to try to win him back. What Gheorge sees in Johnny, on the other hand, remains something of a mystery.
Unrated. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains sex and nudity, obscenity, drinking and some upsetting scenes of life and death on a farm. 104 minutes.