Based on an anonymous poem entitled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Green Knight is the story of King Arthur’s nephew in Sir Gawain who goes on a quest to confront a mysterious creature whom he had faced off the year before. Written for the screen, edited, and directed by David Lowery, the film is an interpretation of the King Arthur legend about his nephew and his journey into acceptance as Sir Gawain is portrayed by Dev Patel and the titular character portrayed by Ralph Ineson. Also starring Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Kate Dickie, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, and Sean Harris as King Arthur. The Green Knight is an audacious and surreal film from David Lowery.
The film revolves a young knight who confronts a mysterious figure known as the Green Knight as the young knight would go on a quest one year later as he would take part in an arduous journey filled with challenges and surrealistic moments. It is a film that explores a young man who is the nephew of King Arthur as he accept the challenge of the Green Knight during a Christmas banquet as Sir Gawain becomes a knight yet knows he has a duty to fulfill. David Lowery’s screenplay is largely straightforward narratively yet it takes on an episodic approach as it play into Gawain’s own journey and his desire to win the acceptance of his uncle though the creation of the Green Knight came from his own mother (Sarita Choudhury) who hopes that her son will pass this challenge and become king one day.
Much of the film’s first act is about Gawain confronting the Green Knight, dealing with his fame in the course of a year, and the duty he has to fulfill while he is also devoted to a commoner in Essel (Alicia Vikander) who gives Gawain a token for his journey as does his mother in a girdle that would protect him. The second act is about the journey north where Gawain doesn’t just contend with the land around him but also various people such as a scavenger (Barry Keoghan), a mysterious young lady (Erin Kellyman), and others including a lord (Joel Edgerton) and his wife (Alicia Vikander). Gawain is also accompanied by a fox in that journey where it does play into his development as a young man seeking to prove himself but also contend the idea if he’s worthy or not to be his uncle’s right-hand man.
Lowery’s direction is definitely stylish as it doesn’t play into the rules expected in a fantasy film set in medieval times but rather something more grounded and grimy in its presentation. Shot largely on location in landscapes in Ireland, the film does use the locations as a character as this physical challenge that also has these elements of surrealism that Gawain would encounter. Lowery’s usage of the wide and medium shots play up into the scope of these locations including some of the scenes in the castle as it is set largely in dreary conditions with very few set in places that are beautiful. Lowery’s usage of tracking shots also play into some of the sense of adventure Gawain occurs but also in scenes that showcases his youthfulness early in the film but also in moments that are also quite striking at times. Notably in scenes at the castle as there is a sense of beauty to the way the exterior settings lights up the interior including the scene of the Green Knight’s arrival. Lowery’s usage of close-ups play into some of the sense of terror and emotions that Gawain and some of the people he meets as it adds to this journey he would encounter as some relate to death while others relate to desires.
Lowery’s approach to surrealism isn’t just in the form of the fox and this young woman that Gawain encounters in the second act but also in scenes that include a horde of giants and other events that play into Gawain’s own journey. Even as Lowery serves as his own editor where he uses a bit of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to add to the film’s suspense and drama. There are also scenes where Lowery would circle a certain location as it play into Gawain’s fate along with these moments in the film’s third act where he would finally meet the Green Knight. It is a climax that is about bravery but also everything Gawain learned in his journey to face this mysterious being who is actually more human than Gawain realizes. It is followed by a sequence that is surreal as it play into Gawain’s own decisions and attachments toward ordinary things but also its outcome. Overall, Lowery crafts a rapturous and evocative film about a young knight going on a quest to confront a mysterious figure one year after their first confrontation.
Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of filters to add a mood to a few bits of the film including its third act as well as its emphasis on natural lighting to play up the dreary landscapes that Gawain would encounter. Production designer Jade Healy, with set decorator Jenny Oman plus art directors Christine McDonagh and David Pink, does amazing work with the look of the interiors at the castle as well as the home of the lord and lady and some of the design of the places that Gawain goes to including the Green Knight’s chapel. Costume designer Malgosia Turzanska does excellent work with the ragged clothes that Gawain wears as well as the design of the crowns the king and queen wear and the gorgeous blue dress the lady wears. Hair designer Eileen Buggy and makeup/prosthetics designer Audrey Doyle do fantastic work with not just the hairstyle of the lady as well as Essel but also the look of the Green Knight.
Special effects supervisor Paul Byrne and visual effects supervisors Kev Cahill do incredible work with some of the effects of the Green Knight but also in the design of the fox that follows Gawain and other aspects of the film that add to its surreal tone. Sound designer Johnny Marshall and co sound-editors Christopher Barnett do superb work with the sound as it is a highlight of the film as it help play into the atmosphere of the location as well as the way nature sounds and other elements that add to the suspense including sparse sounds of objects in the film. The film’s music by Daniel Hart is phenomenal as its usage of dissonant folk and vocal choirs add to the film’s surrealistic presentation as well as some of its suspense as well as its usage of strings and woodwinds as the music soundtrack include these traditional folk pieces that add to the journey that Gawain embarks on.
The casting by Louise Kiely is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from the trio of Nita Mishra, Tara McDonagh, and Atheena Frizzell as Gawain’s sisters who assist their mother in forms of witchcraft, Emmet O’Brien as the magician Merlin, Helena Browne as a blind woman that lives at the home of the lord and lady, and Megan Tiernan as a woman that Gawain would meet late in the film. Barry Keoghan is terrific in his small role as a scavenger that would harass Gawain on his quest while Erin Kellyman is superb in her small role as a mysterious young woman Gawain meets at an abandoned house. Kate Dickie and Sean Harris are fantastic in their small roles as Queen Guinevere and King Arthur with the former being a figure that is uneasy about the task Gawain is to endure while is forced to read the Green Knight’s letter in a scene while Harris’ role as the latter is a different take on King Arthur as a man giving Gawain advice on what he is going to face but also remind him that the quest is really a test.
Sarita Choudhury is excellent as Gawain’s mother as a variation of Morgana Le Fay as a woman who hopes for great promises for her son while is also is hoping her son would be able to pass the test against the man she created. Joel Edgerton is brilliant as the Lord as a man who offers Gawain shelter and rest while is aware of what Gawain is to face as he wants something of Gawain in return as it’s a low-key yet charming performance from Edgerton. Ralph Ineson is amazing as the titular character as this mysterious figure who is eager to be challenged in a game of honor as he’s also someone that may be intimidating but also understanding of what is at stake.
Alicia Vikander is incredible in a dual role as Essel and the lady as she is seen in a pixie-cut and an ordinary look for the former as someone that grounds Gawain and offers him hope while Vikander’s role in the latter is one of an enchanting seductress that is this embodiment of temptation who tests Gawain’s sense of morals and values. Finally, there’s Dev Patel in a phenomenal performance as Sir Gawain as a young knight who is eager to prove to himself that he is worthy to be his uncle’s right-hand man as he endures many challenges where Patel maintains that air of determination and hardened revelations as someone that is trying to understand his quest but also what he has to do as it is a career-defining performance for Patel.
The Green Knight is a sensational film from David Lowery that features a phenomenal leading performance from Dev Patel. Along with its ensemble cast, surrealistic presentation, ravishing visuals, eerie sound design, and a chilling music score from Daniel Hart. It is a fantasy film that breaks away from convention to focus on a man’s test of will as well as dealing with himself and revelations about whether he’s up to the task or not to face this mysterious and imposing figure. In the end, The Green Knight is a tremendous film from David Lowery.
David Lowery Films: Ain't Them Bodies Saints - (Pete’s Dragon (2016 film)) – (A Ghost Story) – (The Old Man & the Gun) – (The Year of Everlasting Storm) – (Peter Pan & Wendy)
© thevoid99 2021
I am soooo excited to finally see this film!
This is a beautiful film but I wish I knew a bit more about Gawain and his mom. I have questions lol
Glad you saw this in the theater! Somehow the visuals look extremely dark in the theater I was in, hard to see all the details, I think I want to rewatch this on streaming once it's there. The direction is really unique and I LOVE Dev Patel but the overly dark visuals (and how cold the theater was) kinda dampen my enjoyment a bit.
I'm so looking forward to this but it had its UK release pulled without reason so I'm waiting for a VoD release now. So glad to hear how good it is though!
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