We’ve all read some form of the various Arthurian tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Some people may even be familiar with the tale of the Green Knight. No matter how familiar you are with these tales, it’s unlikely you’ll be prepared for what director David Lowery has crafted. Let’s break down all this new film has to offer with our full review of The Green Knight.
If you’re at all versed in David Lowery films, you should already suspect The Green Knight is not a straightforward affair. A Ghost Story is a great example of a David Lowery film that has a lot to say but does so through visual cues and other indirect methods. The Green Knight takes everything audiences may already know and love about the medieval tale and adds a fresh coat of visual flair to the proceedings.
Lowery keeps the basic premise of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is the poem the film is based on. In some ways, The Green Knight serves as a coming-of-age story. Gawain (Dev Patel) is the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris). During Christmas, the round table is visited by the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), who issues a challenge. Gawain accepts this challenge, which results in setting off on an adventure across the land. Along the way, he learns valuable life lessons, as well as what it takes to be an honorable knight, and more.
While the original poem leaves many parts of the story somewhat vague, Lowery makes a number of changes that allow him to fill in some of those gaps. This also enables Lowery to spice up the tale with sexual tension, humor, and an ending that feels a bit more epic than the original. Some of these changes cause the film to twist and turn, which may make it difficult for some audiences to follow. In fact, for those unfamiliar with the original poem, they may be lost entirely until the last few minutes of the movie when things become “a bit” more clear.
Patel fills Gawain with the warmth of a young member of King Arthur’s court who is not yet a knight. His nuanced performance makes it easy for the audience to understand his goals and desires. His performance feels genuine and makes you want to root for him, even in the worst of times. The connection between Gawain and his primary love interest, The Lay (Alicia Vikander) is clear, and the on-screen chemistry between Patel and Vikander makes this non-traditional relationship shine in the early parts of the film.
Throughout Gawain’s journey, he encounters Winifred (Erin Kellyman). While this is only a small portion of the film, it’s one of the best. Kellyman excels in her limited screen time and adds a small dose of humor to an otherwise dreary second act. Similar points of brilliance can be seen in Barry Keoghan’s performance as the devious Scavenger, and Vikander’s second role as seductive Essel. These are all ancillary characters who add significantly to the scenes they’re featured in and elevate the film as a whole.
For all of The Green Knight’s accolades, it does stumble a bit if you’re not familiar with the original poem. Going into the film with no tangible knowledge of Sir Gawain will likely create a fair amount of confusion. You’ll surely be awed by the grand cinematography on display, but the story will likely be difficult to follow. The film can be cerebral at times, and it doesn’t all come together until the very end, which may still confuse some.
The mark of a good film is not necessarily in how well the audience understands the plot, but it does help. However, as the only knock on an otherwise flawless film, The Green Knight is still held in high regard as David Lowery continues to impress with his writing and directorial prowess. Do not go into The Green Knight expecting an aggressive display of swords and sorcery, and you will likely enjoy the experience.
About The Green Knight
Synopsis: A fantasy re-telling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury
Runtime: 2 Hours, 5 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.