#REVIEW: “THE GREEN KNIGHT”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Acclaimed Writer-Director David Lowery has gifted audiences with an unforgettable cinematic experience with his adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
One Christmas at Camelot, the Green Knight visits King Arthur and his subjects. He offers to play a game where anyone can strike him. However, in one year he will return the same strike. Eager to prove himself, King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain (a spectacular Dev Patel) accepts the game. He goes right for the throat, cutting-off the Green Knight’s head. To everyone’s surprise, the Green Knight picks up his head and places it back on his neck. A year later, Sir Gawain heads out on his daring quest to find the Green Knight and finish the game. Thus, proving himself to his family and court as courageous and honourable.
This Medieval Tale filled with magic is a perfect fit for Lowery. For those who know his work, primarily A Ghost Story, Lowery is a master of imagery. With The Green Knight, he has created an atmosphere through a setting that feels mythical yet entirely rooted in reality. Immediately, Lowery drops us into his fantastical world where knights, hierarchy, pagan beliefs and more combine under a darkened sky and inside stone buildings. They made the intelligent decision to film in Ireland. When Gawain is on his extensive journey, the inclement weather and expansive countryside further Lowery’s effective use of imagery. It’s on this journey where long pans and tracking shots are used to create tension that mirrors Gawain’s anxiety.
Additionally, this quest is chopped into mini-chapters. Each chapter stands entirely on its own, with its own genre. Yet, each manages to flow seamlessly into the others and further Gawain’s quest. It’s in these chapters where we meet the supporting cast. A standout is Erin Kellyman, who plays a spirit called Winfred, that foreshadows Gawain’s fate. Another memorable performance comes from Barry Keoghan, who plays a cruel Scavenger who steals Gawain’s magical belt. One of the final chapters introduces Joel Edgerton and Alicia Vikander, who plays two different, but connected characters. Her character paired with Edgerton brings in the themes of lust and temptation within the pagan-believing times. Her other character, Essel, is Gawain’s romantic interest who’s a voice of reason that Gawain declines to listen to. Her commanding talent shines by performing these two drastically different characters.
This talented Supporting Cast only share slivers of screen time but serve an integral purpose to the overall storyline. However, this isn’t a flaw because it’s clear from the beginning this is a one-man show. Patel is the star that knows heavy is the head that wears the crown, and he carries the weight like the most powerful knight. With a career spanning a decade playing multiple genres and characters, this feels like his most intense role. He performs the full gambit of emotions. Patel plays Gawain with a young man’s ignorance that comes from inexperience. This could easily make audiences distaste for Gawain, yet Patel’s natural charm makes it easy for the audience to route for him. After all, we have all been in Gawain’s shoes before.
Gawain wants to be honourable and courageous, which is why he accepts this dangerous game. He desires to be great. And Lowery takes us on the journey to greatness through the use of magic. From the beginning, Gawain’s mother (the talented Sarita Choudhury) uses magic to protect her son. However, if he uses the magic to make him great then it’s all a lie and he will live a lie. With The Green Knight, Lowery teaches us that sometimes the path to greatness causes us to lose our values and virtues. And when we lose those, who are we?
Even though being good is good enough, The Green Knight is a — great — tremendous cinematic adventure. It creeps into your thoughts long after viewing and demands to be rewatched again and again.
Elevation Pictures release THE GREEN KNIGHT in theatres July 30, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*