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The Green Knight
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr David Lowery
prd Toby Halbrooks, James M Johnston, David Lowery, Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page
with Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Ralph Ineson, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, Atheena Frizzell, Nita Mishra, Tara McDonagh
release US 30.Jul.21,
21/Ireland A24 2h10
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Set out as a mythical legend with a driving sense of rhythm, rhyme, colour and texture, David Lowery's adaptation of the 14th century chivalric romance draws us in with offbeat resonance. This is a gorgeous story about self-discovery, laced with ribald humour and fascinating details, many of which offer tantalising hints about larger themes that gurgle under the surface. The deliberate pace may test viewers, but perhaps that's the point.
Longing to be knighted by his uncle King Arthur (Harris), the wild-hearted Gawain (Patel) volunteers to accept the challenge of the tree-like Green Knight (Ineson), which puts him on a collision course that will seal his fate. Exactly one year later, Gawain must head off on a quest, leaving his worried mother (Choudhury) and sharp-minded lover Essel (Vikander) behind. Along the road, encounters with thieves, ghosts and giants put his mettle to the test. He also befriends a fox and is generously offered refuge by a Lord (Edgerton) whose flirtatious wife looks just like Essel.
Sumptuously photographed by Andrew Droz Palermo, the lush design deploys misty skies and natural lighting in medieval settings that pop with dark-hued costumes and clever effects work. Lowery's dialog has an easy poetic flow that richly evokes internalised thoughts and feelings. And the story transitions smoothly through its episodic structure, as each of Gawain's adventures builds on what has gone before, layering fear and temptation. This may feel slow and indulgent to action movie fans, but the meaning is profound.
Patel is excellent in a demanding physical and emotional role as a young man who grows up over the course of this story. Each challenge propels him on his journey while sparking something new inside him. In her dual role, Vikander has some fun playing with both characters' provocative intelligence. Choudhury also has a strong presence as Gawain's mother, who is never far from his thoughts, or he hers. Her yearning for him to mature drives the narrative.
Gawain hopes this quest will make him a great knight. "Why great," Essel asks. "Why is good not enough?" The point is that he doesn't want to wait for the fame he thinks he deserves now. Like a medieval celebrity wannabe, he longs to be a knight, but doesn't aspire to be honourable. This is not an easy lesson to learn, and Lowery recognises the complexities of the human spirit in this extraordinary tale. And it's almost scarily easy to identify with Gawain's internal odyssey.
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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