The Green Knight is a movie that really flips the script when it comes to high fantasy, but at the same time, David Lowery (A Ghost Story, The Old Man & the Gun) honors the world and characters in a way that feels natural, intuitive, and most of all: honest.
Sir Gawain is a knight living a good life. He has a beautiful woman by his side, he’s sitting alongside King Arthur. He’s living a life that seemingly is as good as it could get. In walks the titular Green Knight who challenges a knight to strike him; and within a year’s time, he will return the strike with the same ferocity and in the same place that the knight strikes him. Gawain lands a blow, and the story truly begins.
Cut to a year later and we see Gawain on his journey. Along the way, he experiences self-doubt and is faced with his insecurities. While the world is filled with dark fantasy elements, the film truly is introspective and uses the setting and world to reflect Gawain back onto himself. It’s rare that a movie so confidently balances these elements. The film is able to competently explore its ideas and themes without any sense of unease, lack of clarity, or any dismissal of the fantasy elements at its core. Never has a movie felt as self-confident as The Green Knight in its execution. This is all enhanced by a spectacular lead performance by Dev Patel and framed beautifully with cinematography and visual effects that are surely a contender for the best of the year.
The film really at its core is about Gawain’s search for meaning in a world oftentimes devoid of it. This idea of finding purpose despite the overwhelming futility makes for an interesting struggle. Coupled with this anxiety that the world is often times mean, cruel, and devoid of any sense of fairness, drives the true conflict of The Green Knight. Gawain’s fate ultimately shows that he’s reconciling the world in a way that he can personally live with. It’s a powerful message and the more I ruminate on the film and its message, I really appreciate it more with every passing minute.
Some other noteworthy elements include a fantastic score that both hangs back when needed and punctuates the scenes also in equal necessity. Strong performances by Barry Keoghan, Joel Edgerton, Alicia Vikander, and others are all notable in strong and memorable ways.
Whether you’re a fan of high fantasy, in-depth character studies, A24 films, or just cinema itself, you owe it to yourself to watch The Green Knight.
The Green Knight (A24) is in theatres on Friday, July 30th, 2021.