The Green Knight
by Hope Madden
Lutes and mead, chainmail and sorcery—director David Lowery’s Camelot is just as rockin’ as ever in his trippy coming-of-age style The Green Knight.
Dev Patel stars as King Arthur’s nephew, Gawain. He’s a bit of a ne’er-do- well and it looks like he’s ne’er going to actually be knighted. But Christmas warms old Arthur’s heart and he asks the boy to take a seat of honor at the round table. When this menacing giant (think Groot, but sinister) drops in for a beheading game, Gawain offers to play so he can keep his uncle’s respect.
The story itself is more than 700 years old. Credit Lowery, who adapted the old ballad for the screen, with finding fresh intrigue in the old bones. He’s slippery with symbolism and draws wonderful performances from the ensemble.
Joel Edgerton is especially fun as The Lord, just one of many helpers and hindrances Gawain finds on his journey. Barry Keoghan is likewise wonderful playing a brash, angry scavenger. But Edgerton and Keoghan are always good. The real surprise here is Patel.
That’s not to say he’s unproven, just that his performances until now tend to rely heavily and falsely on an earnest streak. Gawain does not. Patel doesn’t shy away from or judge the character’s weakness or cowardice. Instead, he uses those very characteristics to make Gawain human.
It’s the kind of compassionate portrayal rarely depicted in an Arthurian fable, and it ensures that you care enough for the character to puzzle through his adventures with him. There’s sorcery afoot, and also psychedelic mushrooms, so who knows what’s really going on?
Here’s where Lowery really excels, though. His visual storytelling has always been his greatest strength as a director and this tale encourages his most fanciful and hypnotic visual style to date. The Green Knight is gorgeous. The color and framing are pure visual poetry. Together with this exceptional ensemble, Lowery’s created a magical realm where you believe anything could happen.