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The Comedy of Errors

Film Review: The Green Knight

30 September 21 words: George White

Dev Patel comes across giants, talking trees and an adorable fox in David Lowery's latest release...

Director: David Lowery
Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton
Running time: 130 minutes

Some films are difficult to pin down, and The Green Knight is certainly one of them. And, as a result, it is a bloody nightmare to review – but we’re going to give it a good old college try nonetheless. Because, while it is ambiguous, and elusive, and unlike anything that’s come before, it is also utterly mesmerising; a big-screen event that encapsulates you with its peculiarity from the very first scene and refuses to let go until the credits roll. 

Based on the fourteenth-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this film follows Dev Patel’s (you guessed it) Sir Gawain, as he accepts the challenge of (you guessed it again) the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) to a duel on Christmas Day. A year after taking on the contest and slicing the giant knight’s big old wooden head clean off, he must travel across the land to face his foe – and potentially his end – once again. 

If this seems a confusing summary of the film, that isn’t entirely down to the ineptitude of this writer (promise). Rather, it is because The Green Knight is truly strange from start to finish, with weird and abstract being director David Lowery’s main focus throughout. There are metaphors aplenty, and heaps of symbolism, and that may not be for everybody.

Yet those who can get on board will be treated to a singular adventure like no other. Even before Gawain sets off on his quest, there is mystery and intrigue that will grab your attention, with even seemingly mundane conversations feeling layered with depth. Every member of the cast clearly backs Lowery’s vision from the off, with Sean Harris putting in the sort of eerie, intense performance as King Arthur that epitomises the tone of the rest of the film. 

It is when Gawain heads out into this magical world, though, that things really step up a gear. Across an eventful yet reflective couple of hours, Patel’s not-quite-a-knight has to navigate pesky thieves, cabin-dwelling beheaded women and actual, full-on giants as the fantastical beings of this realm lay obstacles on his path to nobility. Each scene is atmospheric and compelling in its own way, with each character – human or otherwise – throwing up a new dynamic, a new dilemma, a new challenge for our hero to navigate.

While The Green Knight may not be to everyone’s liking, there will be plenty who will absolutely adore it

Patel once again proves himself to be one of the most talented artists around, expertly handling every gauntlet Lowery throws down for him. The star's expressions fully encapsulate the emotions of the audience; those of feeling overwhelmed, baffled and in awe of the magnificent surroundings and extraordinary scenarios he finds himself in. 

Those surroundings truly are magnificent, too. This is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking, a work of art that is undoubtedly best seen on the big screen. Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo creates a colour palette that emphasises the enchanting, dreamlike state of this universe, and combines with Lowery to ensure every moment is framed and captured to perfection. Every scene looks and feels like a fourteenth century painting, and these intoxicating visuals are underpinned by a chilling score which adds an extra layer of immersion. 

While The Green Knight may not be to everyone’s liking, there will be plenty who will absolutely adore it. This is close to a masterpiece, in its own incredibly confusing, altogether bizarre way. David Lowery is making a name for himself as one of the most unique filmmakers around, and this may well be his best movie yet. So head to your local cinema and check this out – we promise it’ll be a Knight to remember. 

Did you know? The pattern on Gawain's yellow cloak is actually the thumbprint belonging to costume designer Malgosia Turzanska's husband.

The Green Knight is now available in cinemas and on Amazon Prime Video 

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