When I hear the phrase God’s Country, I lean into an image of an expansive and lush prairie with streams and wildlife and maybe a pretty mountain range in the distance. Instead, this film takes us to a cold, snow-covered small town in Montana. The kind of place you might escape to if you wanted to be away from people.
Thandiwe Newton plays Sandra, a professor at the local university. Her mother who she was caring for has just passed, leaving Sandra alone in the valley to wrestle with her past and tackle new troubles.
When Sandra discovers a couple of hunters using her land without permission, she is quietly discontent. She attempts to ask nicely for them to stop (once), but they continue to park on her property. This does not sit well with Sandra, and she invites a conflict that brings up unresolved issues she harbors with the notion of justice.
The film is an extremely slow burn with beautiful, wintry imagery. The tension is high and uncomfortable, as it seems like she should just let this go. Then there’s a situation at the university that doubles down on Sandra’s frustration when the right thing isn’t done. She reaches peak resentment with this system – this country – that has continued to fail her throughout her life.
So when the threats and harassment continue with the two trespassing hunters, Sandra hits a breaking point. Without spoilers, I wouldn’t call her actions satisfying. It’s mostly sad. I think the film is trying to magnify injustice, but because it all falls on one person’s shoulders, it seems petty. I imagine she probably could have made better decisions if she wasn’t dealing with so much built up anger. But I also think she could have just let them hunt on her property. I’m left feeling – eh. And reminded of the sentiment: “Wherever you go, there you are.”