Something about The Green Knight doesn’t click. It’s a beautiful film made more so by workhorse actor Dev Patel’s face, yet it never escapes the confines of its source material; sometimes Arthurian poems don’t translate well to 21st century cinema. But hey, it’s worth a shot.
In the pale gray color-schemed Middle Ages, King Arthur’s (Sean Harris) nephew, Sir Gawain (Patel), is challenged by the mysterious Green Knight (a man who is half tree, apparently), after which Gawain receives the honor of beheading tree-man and the fame that comes along with that. The catch, however, is that, in return, he must take an equal blow from Sir Pine Tree in a year’s time. On the path to fulfill his oath, he meets Odyssey-esque obstacles that bring his desire for myth-making into question. What’s real? Ask Sir Pine Tree.
Director David Lowery presents a slow, slow experience here. And whereas fans of Lowery’s Casey Affleck-in-a-sheet led A Ghost Story from 2017 might feel right at home with the poetic meditation on screen in Green Knight, the rest might want to know that, in lieu of battles and sword fights, we mainly see Gawain wander the woods and meet some sexy maidens.
But then, nothing about The Green Knight is an example of bad filmmaking, save an overabundance of fades used for purposes I cannot grasp. It quickly takes the mantle as the year’s best looking film with Lowery’s eye for period-era lighting creating an atmosphere of mystique and emotional voids.
At its heart lies the futility of heroic deeds and the idea of destiny and fame never translating into what one would expect. To its credit, quite a bit of The Green Knight lingers, enough that I’d like to experience it a second time to see where it lands. Still, Lowery’s latest opus will be a love-it-or-hate-it picture that’ll either lull you into a much-needed nap or into the weeds of thought provocation. Be prepared for either possibility.
+ Dev Patel; fantastic cinematography
- The vibes won’t work for everyone
The Green Knight
Directed by Lowery
With Patel, Harris and Alicia Vikander
Violet Crown, Center for Contemporary Arts, R, 125 min