The Green Knight Review
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
The Green Knight
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton
Released in 2021
The Green Knight is sure to remain one of the most interesting and very best films of 2021. Director David Lowery previously impressed me with his 2017 film, A Ghost Story, which was an affecting look at life, death and grief. This film might at first appear to be a more accessible fantasy outing, based on a medieval poem about a young knight serving under King Arthur, who sets out on a journey to prove his courage and worth, by slaying the inhuman Green Knight. However what might appear to be a simple fantasy adventure is in fact a fantastic, existential mediation on mortality and self-worth. A challenging film, but one that's vastly rewarding.
One thing I think everyone can agree on here is that the film looks stunning. Its visuals are engrossing, making striking use of colour and precise lighting. It's eye candy throughout, a film that looks beyond what you'd think a $15 million budget could offer. Similarly, matching the visuals is a fantastic soundtrack with strong accompanying sound design. With chilling choirs accompanying certain scenes, building up uncomfortable tension and often making scenes appear eerie. I thought the general otherworldly atmosphere this film inhabits was incredible, it's unlike any typical fantasy or period film. Its tone switches from a curious, whimsical dream, to an acid-tinged nightmare at a penny drop. It's very exciting.
Dev Patel was always one of those young actors that seemed destined to break out and become a big star, after his leading role in Slumdog Millionaire. But his following Hollywood roles didn't do him justice, with Chappie and particularly The Last Airbender being duds which failed to utilise his talent. So it's better late than never to see Patel absolutely own his leading role in this film. He's wonderful here, there always seems to be a layer of doubt behind his eyes as he questions his journey and worth as a knight, as well as navigating some trippy encounters that he just can't seem to believe.
Wherein The Green Knight might become challenging for some viewers is in its leisurely pace and deteriorating grasp on reality the film progresses into. But such a strong atmosphere is upheld, with accompanying breath-taking visuals and what ends up being a very strong central character arc. The idea of who you think should be is often at odds with who you actually are, and it's important to recognise the difference. Dev Patel's character wishes to live up to the legends of King Arthur's knights, but within he is filled with fear and doubt, which he must overcome. In your head you might want to become a success, but can you make the appropriate sacrifices? Its a very punctuated character arc and gives the film so much depth beyond its other mysteries and visual symbolism.
To see a film so freshly artful this year was very exciting. I loved the surreal tone, fantastic visuals, chilling score and brilliant performances, particularly from Dev Patel in the lead. While style is definitely accounted for, it's matched with great substance that provides worthwhile remarks about proving your self-worth and achieving existential contentedness. Or you could view it as a acid trip medieval coming of age film. Whatever way you look at it, if you're up for a challenging, artful film that's unlike anything else you'll watch this year, this is worth a shot.