Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Green Knight

Writer/director David Lowery's adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight casts Dev Patel in the role of King Arthur's (Sean Harris) nephew and youngest knight Gawain who sees a chance to prove himself when a Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) arrives in Camelot for a game. He offers any knight the opportunity to lay a blow on him that he will return in kind one year later.

The adaptation takes some liberties with the source material, making Gawain a bit more of a coward and whoremonger than in the original chivalric poem. After the Green Knight survives Gawain beheading him, and takes his leave, the story flashes forward a full year, meaning we don't see the looming threat play on the knight over time.

Instead we pick up with Gawain leaving his mistress (Alicia Vikander) and heading off into the unknown, hopeful that completing this quest will somehow magically turn him into the knight he desires to become. Lowery offers a lush setting against the internal strife of Gawain who will be tested on his journey multiple times before ever reaching the his second encounter with the Green Knight.

Patel is well-cast as the flawed and all-too-human Gawain who wants nothing more than to be a true knight of the realm but lacks the courage and conviction. It's those flaws that trap him in the Green Knight's Christmas game. Vikander plays two roles here, both as Gawain's lover and the wife of a lord who he meets on his travel to the Green Chapel. Tying the two characters together with a single actress is purposefully confusing while it works to underline the dreamlike quality of his journey (which also includes an encounter with a ghost).

The film works well as a would-be hero's journey, although the final act is where things get a little shaky at times. At its best it is astonishing, but it in its lesser moments merely perplexing. All that said, The Green Knight is both memorable and well-made with the strength of Patel and Vikander to carry the emotional weight of the story and some intricate design adding flourish to the Green Knight and his world.

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