LGBT Films: Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country and Jayro Bustamante’s Tremors (Temblores)

God’s Own Country (image from Indiewire)

At first glance, he might not be much of anything. Living in complete isolation in the Yorkshire area, Johnny (Josh O’Connor) simply exists: he toils day and night in his family’s farm while his father (Ian Hart) constantly puts him down while his mother (Gemma Jones) gives little warmth. A life that seems to be headed to oblivion, Johnny truly has no friends, he looks perpetually sullen, is given to drink in excess, and enjoys casual sex with anonymous men to let the tension stemming from loneliness go, if at all, for a time. That is, until a stroke debilitates his father, rendering Johnny as temporary head of the house. However, Johnny is unable to run the farm on his own and hires Gheorghe (Alex Secareanu), a Romanian migrant to lend some much-needed help.

At first, it doesn’t seem as though Johnny and Gheorghe would have anything in common; nothing in their characters suggests otherwise except for a few cursory looks both throw at each other from time to time. However, Johnny’s pent-up anger at everything lands a few times on Gheorghe when he calls Gheorghe a gypsy. Gheorghe gives Johnny a warning sign not to call him that. Johnny, seeing that the guy he hired has somehow threatened his own masculinity, lashes out, and it’s not long before Lee flips the scene on the audience and reveals a moment of unbelievable sexuality, raw and dirty and completely animalistic as anything this way from pearson math homework help how to get viagra london click mental health research paper buy essay writing viagra dr simi mexico source link against curfew essays essay editing service reviews see url informational thesis example of an essay about nature see url thesis formatting follow site go to site buy essays from scratch online essay on republic day of 2015 viagra from your doctor sythesis paper follow url ryan faridabad co assignments how to write a discussion for a science report prednisone for asthma dosage Brokeback Mountain.

However, it would be unfair to compare God’s Own Country with And Lee’s powerful 2005 drama, and the comparisons will and have been made by reason of theme. The men initiate a tentative bonding that soon becomes much more than that — you literally see them falling in love onscreen as they continue to work in near-complete isolation. Lee wisely avoids bringing in any obvious contrivances to his story — there are no suspicious girlfriends, no family confrontations (it is implied Johnny’s parents are mutely aware of Johnny’s sexuality, which may be a reason for Johnny’s almost adversarial relationship with his father) — because God’s Own Country as a romance develops on its own, naturally, and is anchored by its two leads who turn in sharp performances as tonal opposites who simply complement each other in every shape and form.

I am going to say that this is the kind of movie audiences need to see in order to capture the beauty of men falling in love. Too often gay dramas are soaked with plastic models substituting chiseled features for lack of acting, and cardboard storylines, which is why I tend to stay away from gay films (with some exceptions, this being one of them). What I wish Lee would not have done was to diminish his already potent character study and love story with the slur word “faggot” framed by the equally offensive “freak”. Was it necessary? Yes, sometimes people in intimate relationships call themselves by choice names, but I think that by now it’s time to leave the F word behind for once and for all. Too many men have unjustly died for it. [A-]

Now, if I was shocked by the use of the F word in God’s Own Country, nothing could prepare me for the nightmare unleashed by Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante, who just released La Llorona (available on Shudder). Tremors (Temblores) is a surrealistic nightmare with strong Yorgos Lanthimos sensibilities (think Dogtooth). Bustamante starts his movie with the portent of something horrible that has befallen a wealthy Guatemalan family. The hero (or anti-hero) Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) comes home to a house in emotional turmoil. We don’t quite know what exactly is the problem but it soon becomes clear. Pablo’s secret — that is a gay man — has come home to roost. Needless to say, the family is shocked to the core, and Bustamante punctuates this with a carefully placed earthquake in the middle of the scene.

For worldly audiences, this will almost come as a comedy not aware of itself — really? A house in complete disarray praying to God for a miracle, for a cure for the son’s illness? A mother telling her son, on the way to church, to lower his head so he can hide his shame in 2019? At times I had to hold myself to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. However, having lived in the Dominican Republic, Tremors‘ almost telenovela-like dramatics involving a viciously accusatory family who cast more stones than Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and which comes short of holding pitchforks are quite real. The reality in many Latin American countries that are 98% religious and treat their religiosity as an Iron Rule Never to be Questioned, Period rings true if at times it is so shocking one almost can’t believe the insanity unfold. Pablo, already a weakened man due to his backward-thinking society really hasn’t anywhere to go but back to the enforced mafia that is his family, and all attempts to live a normal life come to a crashing halt even before they can begin, proper.

It is a scenario that Bustamante highlights in presenting the gay community as completely marginalized, people barely surviving, their voices unheard, self-aware and woke in a nation that blatantly hates them for being them. The one sympathetic. character is Pablo’s long-suffering boyfriend (Mauricio Armas) who already knows who he is and is okay with it. It’s a shame that Pablo doesn’t, and has to basically submit to the demands of cult-like devotion to a religious life-coach (Sabrina de la Hoz) who arrives with shades of The Handmaids Tale’s Aunt Lydia. My one complaint is that Bustamante did not include some note at the start of the film that would at least soften the blow of what I was about to see. I avoid gay-negative films in general because there is too much negativity in the world already. I cannot recommend this one to anyone who has undergone gay conversion therapy because frankly, Tremors is torture to watch. [B]

Tremors is available on Dekkoo, while God’s Own Country is on Amazon Prime.

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