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    Strapping Romanian Farmhand Melts Cold British Heart in God’s Own Country

    By Gary M. Kramer

    Alec Secăreanu makes an indelible impression as Gheorghe, a strapping Romanian farmhand, in the gay romantic drama God’s Own Country, opening November 10 at the Opera Plaza. Out writer/director Francis Lee’s striking film is set mostly on a Yorkshire farm where Johnny (Josh O’Connor) ekes out a hardscrabble life with his ailing father (Ian Hart) and Deidre (Gemma Jones), his nan.

    Johnny is not an especially likeable character, drinking himself sick most nights as a way to numb the pain of hard farm work and his closeted desires. When Gheorghe arrives to assist with lambing season, Johnny is initially wary of him. However, the immigrant proves himself adept at farm work, and shows tenderness to the prickly Johnny. The two young men get romantically involved.

    Secăreanu gives a riveting performance. He generates a strong erotic charge just in licking Johnny’s injured palm. And he conveys deep emotions with the slightest expressions. The actor imbues Gheorghe with a confidence that makes him incredibly sexy. He spoke with me via Skype from Bucharest, about the making of God’s Own Country.

    Gary M. Kramer: Your character is into farming. Are you outdoorsy? Do you like to camp and can you build a fire?

    Alec Secăreanu: I had literally no experience on a farm. It’s demanding work. Farmers don’t have any free days, weekends, or holidays. They are not just farmers, but carpenters, doctors, and it is hard work. I am outdoorsy. I can build a fire from scratch, and I go for long walks in nature. But I’m not keen on farming. It’s hard physical work, and it’s a lot of responsibility. You have lives on your hands and have to take care of them. You have to switch attention to the quality of the animals’ lives.

    Gary M. Kramer: What do you think Gheorghe sees in Johnny? The guy is really unlikable and self-destructive, yet Gheorghe provides a catalyst for Johnny’s change.

    Alec Secăreanu: I think Johnny is very attractive, and Gheorghe is confident with his sexuality. Gheorghe develops some kind of mother/father figure and makes Johnny a project. He shows Johnny a different way of relating to the environment he works in, and the people, and what tenderness is.

    Gary M. Kramer: Yes, he cares for Johnny, and for the animals. Can you talk about this quality of his? 

    Alec Secăreanu: I think Gheorghe needs this kind of interacting with other people because he’s been on his own for some time in a foreign country. It’s the first time he connects with someone in the U.K. He and Johnny get off on the wrong foot, but in time, they find common ground.

    Gary M. Kramer What are your thoughts about the film’s depiction of an immigrant in the U.K.? Gheorghe has a hard life in England, but he says his country is dead, so this is his best opportunity. What observations do you have about his experiences in the U.K. with xenophobia, for example?

    Alec Secăreanu: Francis [Lee, the director] knew he wanted an outsider for the character. He met a Romanian guy and was impressed by his story. I think this inspired him to choose this character to be Romanian. I think Gheorghe adapted to this kind of environment and it is why he’s keeping his head down and working, and not engaging in unnecessary fights or arguments. He only does that when he needs to stand his ground or impose a position. The xenophobia and immigration—the film became much more political than we intended. Brexit hadn’t happened when Francis wrote the film. During editing, Brexit happened, and it became a period piece.

    Gary M. Kramer: How has this film raised your visibility as an actor? Do you think it will hurt your career to play a gay role?

    Alec Secăreanu: Hopefully not. I do hope that the people who see the film are open-minded and understand what the film is about. It is a privilege to play this role—not only the sexuality, but also the story itself. I think it will help my career. I now have an agent in London and a manager in Los Angeles. If someone told me that would happen … . The film gathered attention and momentum. We didn’t expect the film would go this big. It’s huge for us, and it has done amazing things for our careers. I’d love to play something in Romania, but it’s frustrating to be a young actor and see filmmakers work with the same actors in the 8–9 films made each year. I do want to make English language films (too).

    Gary M. Kramer: One last question: Gheorghe cooks for Johnny and even makes cheese. Are you good in the kitchen?

    Alec Secăreanu: Yes, I am good in the kitchen! I like to improvise.

    © 2017 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer