Movie Review

The Green Knight movie review: A film of our times

The Green Knight movie cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sarita Choudhury, Joel Edgerton, Sam Harris
The Green Knight movie director: David Lowery
The Green Knight movie rating: Three and a half stars

King Arthur (Harris) is a frail old man now, suffering from tooth and other aches, his Knights established heroes with well-settled legends, having earned their place at his Round Table, and peace has been won for the kingdom. How does the King’s nephew with looks, charm, money, a way with ladies of the night, and a formidable sorceress for a mother (Choudhury), earn his own stripes?

That’s what Dev Patel’s Sir Gawain is up against in this revisionist retelling of the poem Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. Where the hero proves his chivalry, honour, bravery and commitment to truth in that poem of his journey by an anonymous author, Gawain here doesn’t even find a mention in the film’s title and must find his own interpretation of those much-valued qualities.

What is the worth of kindness from a rich man to a poor one? Is slaying a Green Knight as part of an elaborate game the road down which honour lies? As The Lord (Edgerton), who takes in a broken Gawain during his journey, asks him, would he become a new man just with that one deed? What if he preferred the old him, The Lord says. Why is Green Knight ‘green’, and is there a little bit of him in every one of us? And why even chase greatness, like men will do and “get themselves killed”, asks Essel, the prostitute whom Gawain loves but is too ‘honorable’ to acknowledge. “Why isn’t goodness enough?”

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With a bevy of impressive performers and a landscape of bleak, striking beauty, Lowery takes his time unfolding the journey of Gawain. Consequently, the film tends to drag at times. However, in its final moments, in the confrontation between Gawain and the Green Knight, what Lowery has been trying to tell us comes satisfyingly together.

The archaic titles that describe the passing of chapters in the film are a throwback to its antiquity. However, in the questions Gawain faces (Patel has another winner shouldering the film almost entirely alone), about expectations, masculinity, conformity, and what constitutes real courage, The Green Knight is a film of our times.

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