The loneliness and isolation that comes with living in the country is certainly well represented in this picture.
Thandiwe Newton stars as Sandra in the feature directed and written by Julian Higgins. A college professor, Sandra is a woman who has just lost her mother and now lives alone in rural Montana.
The movie picks up with her one day noticing a red truck on her property, owned by two hunters. She asks them to stop coming onto her property, but they refuse. Their willingness to continue begins an escalation between the characters that pushes Sandra to her limits.
As a slow burn, “God’s Country” is very effective. The movie showcases tense interactions and upsetting micro aggression involving the main character, and takes its time thoroughly detailing how each one impacts Sandra.
Not only is the audience seeing pressure be put on the main character, though, it’s also triggering something from her past.
As the film goes on, we as the audience are given more and more information on Sandra’s background, and learn about the suffering she and her family went through. Finding out about her past and what led her to Big Sky Country in addition to what’s taking place in the present makes for a highly intriguing character study.
All of this is compounded by the fact that Sandra is a woman who’s living by herself with mostly men around, and the only person of color not only in her department, but in the town. It’s a fact that many characters feel entitled to take advantage of, and pushes the woman closer to her breaking point.
It all leads to a poignant moment where Sandra explains a major part of her past. Knowing the full context, it only makes the third act more heartbreaking and intense.
While “God’s Country” shares some similarities to other films, notably 1971’s “Straw Dogs” and its 2011 remake, it stands out on its own by being such a deep dive on what this person is going through, that it’s elevated above a standard home invasion flick. The film explores the embedded racism and sexism that exists in parts of the country and how it can directly a person’s life.
Really making a lot of this work was the lead performance by Newton, who does incredible work in portraying Sandra’s grief, mental exhaustion and simmering anger that’s reaching a boil. The issues Sandra’s dealing with are so vividly weighing on her, with it especially coming through in a moment where she explains her past in a brilliantly acted monologue.
The film is also quite stylish. The movie features long shots showing the vastness of where Sandra lives and slow zoom-ins during dramatic moments that really enhance the film’s atmosphere. Both the beauty of open forests and mountains, as well as the cold, harsh reality of the world are captured.
“God’s Country” is a fine film, although there are points where it can feel like it’s meandering just a bit. With that said, it’s still a strong, dark drama with great acting and a moody character journey that holds one’s attention. 4 out of 5.