A big hit at this year’s Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, God’s Own Country is the story of young Yorkshire farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor). Using alcohol to numb his frustration at his limited future, his world is transformed when his father hires migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu).
Josh O’Connor: I think Francis (Lee, director) had an idea in our first script read that the relationship was working. But as soon as that read was done, Francis actually kept us separate. We didn’t talk, we’d meet to rehearse a certain scene but that’s the only contact we had. Then at the beginning of the shoot we were kept separate again, we were shooting chronologically and I think what we decided was that it was a good idea to keep us separate because the relationship is so hostile at first. We wanted that to develop naturally and organically, so it was quite nice to have a distance between us.
JO: It was certainly a world I had no experience of. I think that the two weeks’ prep working on this film was absolutely essential. All of those scenes, like Alec skinning the lamb, all the farming I do in the film, we experienced all those things.
Alec Secareanu: We trained a lot to become comfortable around animals, because they might be unpredictable and you have to know how to handle them. What to do, where to grab them so that you don’t hurt them. It was quite intense, we had a farmer’s schedule from 6am to 6pm. We worked hard, it isn’t easy at all, and neither of us had a farming background so we were starting from scratch.
AS: Well, it’s not that hard. Even if you don’t know the phrases, you can intuit them. “Bap and A Brew” is not that hard to learn!
JO: It’s one of the things I love most about this film, and this opportunity. I was able to totally change, or attempt to totally change myself, and play a transformative role. I lost a bit of weight for the role, and then we worked very hard on the accent, his physicality, how he relates with the other characters. Ultimately, Alec and Francis know me now and would say that there really isn’t any of me in that role. I think that’s a very exciting thing.
JO: While it’s a localised setting, we talk about local areas and there is the thing about dialect, ultimately we’re dealing with universal emotions, and universal relationships and themes. The reaction in America was phenomenal, we couldn’t have asked for a better one. It goes across gender, sexuality, language, this idea of a loving relationship and how someone being closed off and unavailable and emotionally shut down can be opened up and able to view the world in a different way. I think everyone can take something from that.