One of many films that was originally slated to release last year, A24’s The Green Knight has been allowed to build up a lot of anticipation among arthouse film lovers. Adapted from an Arthurian legend, it follows Gawain, who heads to Camelot one Christmas to attend a feast with his uncle King Arthur, during which the menacing Green Knight appears, and proposes a challenge: Any who manage to land a blow on his body will win his axe, but exactly one year later, they must meet him at the Green Chapel and allow him to reciprocate the same blow. Gawain accepts the challenge and beheads the knight. The following December, he heads out to find his fate at the Green Knight’s hand, and encounters challenges and wonders along the way.
Dev Patel is excellent as Gawain, expressing just the right blend of bravado and vulnerability, and Ralph Ineson gives a memorable performance as the titular Green Knight (though one could also make the case that Gawain’s lack of experience also makes him “green”). The rest of the cast all do fine work, but aren’t given as much to do. Writer / Director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) has done an admirable job of staying true to the intent of the original tale from the 1300s while making it feel relevant to our times. While the general arc of the story may seem pretty simplistic, it is rich with symbolism, that is further embellished by the often striking imagery on display. There are obvious moral lessons here about thinking before you act and honoring your word, but looking a little deeper reveals notions about our treatment of Nature or how we handle fears of our mortality. A strange, sumptuous feast of a film, that lingers on the mind for days afterwards and demands repeat viewings, and perhaps the best movie of the year so far. ★★★★★
Available on DVD.
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, and graphic nudity.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor