David Lowrey’s The Green Knight is a cinephiles wet dream. It’s an ode to the cinema purists who hold an auteurs work to the highest of standards, pouring over each frame to find meaning, metaphor and symbolism behind the directors choices. That being said, this film is not made for everyone, no film is, and you shouldn’t go into a film of the caliber of The Green Knight if you’re expecting a film like Lord of the Rings. Sure, the two can be compared to one another in some regard, both taking place in medieval times (Yes, I understand Middle Earth is fictional) and having an epic sized scale to its vast landscapes.
Beyond that, The Green Knight is truly one of a kind, an Arthurian tale based on the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by an anonymous writer. David Lowrey’s adaptation, in which he wrote, produced, edited, and directed, like the poem, follows Gawain (Dev Patel), the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) as he embarks on a yearlong journey to seek out the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) after being challenged to a game in front of the knights of the Round Table.
To say The Green Knight is a strange, acid trip journey is an understatement. It’s weird, fascinating, confusing, and awe-inspiring all at the same time while implanting itself in your brain well beyond the first viewing. Pig, which came out weeks ago has that same effect, this film will stick with you weeks after seeing it, marveling in its beauty from the performances to the cinematography to the messages behind Gawain’s actions in his pursuit. Each frame pours symbolism out of Gawain’s quest. In fact, there is a scene in the film when Gawain eats mushrooms from a forest to curb his hunger. From that point on, nothing in this masterclass of filmmaking can be taken as a matter of truth. Each person who views this film can interpret The Green Knight differently from the next.
The basic premise is that of a coming-of-age story for Gawain. Not quite a knight, he’s searching for his purpose in life and when asked by King Arthur to tell a story, Gawain is lost with nothing of importance to speak on. In that moment, his life feels meaningless which is why he accepts the Green Knights challenge. In the grand scope of things, how life is measured is nothing spectacular and Dev Patel captures this sense of how small we truly are in this universe brilliantly. His facial expressions speak louder than his dialogue ever could. Self-doubt and self-worth can be seen in Dev’s eyes – we get a glimpse into Gawain’s soul. This film doesn’t stick the landing if Dev doesn’t bring his A-game – good thing he hits a home run with his performance.
Self-doubt and lack of confidence is within all of us – no one single person is perfect, Lowery’s character proves that much. It’s why Gawain is easily relatable – a connection is formed instantly making him an underdog to get behind, root for and champion.
For a large part of the film, it’s just Gawain, on his quest to find the green chapel where the Green Knight resides. Dev caries this film on his shoulders for 3 quarters of the film – by himself on screen. No journey is a straight path from point A to point B – along the way Gawain gets sidetracked with three side quests. As much as they are a distraction for his impending doom – the Green Knight must deliver the exact same blow that Gawain gives him (Gawain slices the Green Knight’s head clean off with a singular motion) the distractions fit comfortably within the realm of Lowery’s story. Most of it could be interpreted as a hallucinogenic trip especially when Gawain comes across a fox, a woman named Winifred (Erin Kellyman) who lost her head, and a Lord (Joel Edgerton) and his wife (Alicia Vikander). What is real and what isn’t can easily be taken by the different perspectives of each viewer.
Visually, The Green Knight is a gorgeous sight to behold. Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography captures the beauty in the landscapes with a muted but crisp color palette. The color green is given emphasis over other colors as it has connections to the titular character being a creature of nature and justice for how humans treat nature.
Only David Lowery could have executed this film so beautifully. There’s something euphoric embedded in The Green Knight that after viewing will leave your jaw firmly planted on the ground. With a lower budget, Lowery surely gets the most out of every dollar creating a big budget-esque fantasy epic like no other. Its slow burn pacing will leave you wanting more out of this story that lasts 130 minutes.
The Green Knight delivers on its ambitious undertaking proving the art of cinema is still very much alive. Powered by Dev Patel’s vulnerable yet powerful lead performance, David Lowery creates a fantasy world full of sexual innuendo, adventure, courage, faith, and confidence. The slower pace allows the more severe moments to be lived in while getting the maximum amount of emotion out of these characters. A tad long, The Green Knight is worth the experience for a visit to the theater. This film will linger in your subconscious for days even weeks after seeing it.
The Green Knight is written and directed by David Lowery is Rated R and has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Green Knight was released on July 30, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. The Green Knight can be seen currently in theaters. 4.5 out of 5.