David Lowery directed, wrote, edited, and produced ‘The Green Knight,’ released by A24. It is an epic medieval fantasy based on the tale from the court of King Arthur and his trusted knight Sir Gaiwan.
Gaiwan (Dev Patel) is the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) and Queen Guinevere (Kate Dickie) of Camelot. He longs to be a knight, despite warnings of patience from his mother (Sarita Choudhury) and his lover Essel (Alicia Vikander). One Christmas, the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) arrives offering a game. One of Arthur’s knights can strike him in any manner, but then that participant must visit the Green Knight in the Green Chapel next Christmas, where the knight will be met with the same blow. Gaiwan agrees to the challenge and in his zeal, he beheads the Green Knight, who promptly picks up his head and rides into the night. A year later, Essel begs Gaiwan to abandon his quest, but his mother and the King tell him to complete it. Along the way, he meets a thief (Barry Keoghan), a spirit named Winifred (Erin Kellyman), a helpful fox, a Lord (Joel Edgerton), and his seductress wife. All of them try to stifle his quest and challenge his virtue, all the while Gaiwan continues to his fate at the Green Chapel.
Aesthetically, this is one of the finest films of 2021. The cinematography, the scenery, the sets, and the costumes are all incredibly done. The design of the Green Knight was spot on and it made his presence terrifying in every sense of the word. The roving landscapes fill in the mythical vibe. That goes double for the music. The soundtrack was unique and added to every piece of the story. From that point-of-view, I am glad I got to see it in theaters.
Dev Patel was also incredible as far as acting. Everyone else was excellent as well, but Patel truly carried the movie and made you feel connected to Gaiwan and his troubles.
Where the movie loses me is the conflicting message of the plot. The original poem is about virtue, bravery, courage, and staying true to your beliefs in the face of temptation. The movie seemed to push the message that it is not virtue or your beliefs that are important, but the experience you go through. Sir Gaiwan in the poem does face many temptations, but he stays virtuous through the hardship. Gaiwan in the film is an abject failure at virtually every single step, but it was the “experience” that, for some reason, made him worthy. This might sound petty, but I prefer the aspirational hero.
There were also several subplots that seemingly were made important only for the film to abandon them or reconnects them in a way that does not make sense cinematically. For instance, Gaiwan’s mother gives him a girdle which gets stolen, only for the seductress to give him a duplicate. Okay, why? Why would she know to give it to him and why would he assume it is similar to the one his mom gave him? Also, his ax gets stolen only for it to be returned in the most convenient way possible. There was no resolution with the thieves and that left a hole.
Lastly, there was this bizarre dream sequence that just went on for too long. I found myself yawning through it, waiting for it to end. It ended up taking away from the climax and made it feel wanting instead of satisfying.
Bottom line, Lowery definitely tried to put a modernist spin on The Green Knight that not only affected the messaging, but also the flow of the movie in a negative way. You are better off getting an audiobook of J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Sexual content, Brief blood and gore, Violence, Disturbing images
FAVORITE QUOTE: Now, off with your head.
Check out the teaser below:
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