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Tuesday December 11th 2018

God's Own Country | 2017

God's Own Country filming location: The King's Arms, Haworth, West Yorkshire
God's Own Country location: the local pub in which Johnny drinks: The King's Arms, Church Street, Haworth, West Yorkshire | Photograph: Wikimedia / Tim Green

OK, let’s get Brokeback Mountain out of the way. Yes, there’s a fiercely sexual relationship between two taciturn, sheep-watching farm workers, but Francis Lee’s film is at the same time bleaker yet more hopeful.

It’s set around Keighley in West Yorkshire – an area much romanticised on screen in 1970’s much-loved The Railway Children, but here tough, earthy and totally unsentimental in its portrayal of life on the land.

I don’t know if Keighley is positioning itself to take over from San Francisco as the gay capital of the Western World, but there does seem to be a helluva lot of man-on-man action between the sheep shearing.

The farm on which boozy Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor) lives with his hard-working, long-suffering parents, belongs to the director’s father, and the familiarity shows.

It’s Far Laithe Farm, between Braithwaite and Laycock, just west of Keighley. It’s private working land so, please, no crass trespassing. It’s a farm OK?

Johnny’s glum life of binge drinking and quick, anonymous sex in gents’ lavatories is turned around when Johnny’s father is incapacitated by a stroke and migrant Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is hired to help out.

Reluctantly, Johnny is sent to meet Gheorghe from in front of Keighley Railway Station – and later sets out to track him down for the much more modern Keighley Bus Station.

Keighley Station was previously seen in John Schlesinger's 1979 Yanks, with Richard Gere and Vanessa Redgrave, and in Alan Parker's 1982 film of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Johnny and his mum Deirdre (Gemma Jones)  keep watch over bedridden father Martin (Ian Hart) as he slowly begins to recover in Airedale General Hospital, Skipton Road, Steeton, northwest of Keighley.

The local pub where Johnny gets regularly bladdered (US: intoxicated) and which, I’m sure, is much more warm and welcoming than its screen incarnation, is The Kings Arms Pub & Restaurant, 2 Church Street, Haworth. A former manor house, the historic inn has recently been given a major refurbishment.

Haworth is famous as home of the Brontë sisters – you can visit Haworth Parsonage where they lived (and is itself featured in Lionel Jeffries' film of The Railway Children).

I can’t help feeling that Emily Brontë might recognise a distant cousin of Heathcliff in the darkly brooding, handsome outsider Gheorghe.

In the end, perhaps God’s Own Country is more Wuthering Heights than Brokeback Mountain?