Dev Patel smolders in a creative A24 adaptation of the Arthurian myth
It’s Dev Patel summer, and it’s a hot one thanks in part to his turn as Sir Gawain in The Green Knight, an A24-aesthetized reimagining of an enduring Camelot tale from acclaimed writer/director David Lowery (A Ghost Story).
THE GREEN KNIGHT ★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Directed by: David Lowery
Written by: David Lowery
Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, and Ralph Ineson
Running time: 125 mins
Based on the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the film sticks rather closely to its source material with streamlined plot contrivances and a few additions to fill in the glossed over parts of Gawain’s journey.
In the original text, a mysterious green-clad stranger interrupts Christmas dinner at Camelot, issuing a challenge to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. If any should be brave enough to try and land a blow with their sword on the monstrous green knight, accepting they will receive the exact same strike back on their person in one year’s time, then all will be well. Sir Gawain is already a knight in the text version, though maybe with a chip on his shoulder, and insists on claiming the initial challenge and the ensuing burdensome journey in the name of chivalry.
Lowery explores a version of Gawain on the wrong path, who needs some divination from his witch mother to overcome his rudderless cowardice and get him some clout. It’s sorta like a Lori Loughlin-trying-to-get-her-kid-into-college situation.
In this telling, Gawain also finds himself entangled with a peasant named Essel (Alicia Vikander), who would like him to make her a lady when he is knighted. His inability to reciprocate her commitment weighs on him, as does his later seduction at the hand of a lord’s wife (also played by Vikander) that goes beyond the innocent dalliances of the source material.
Green Knight gains the right kind of texture from these added elements. There’s also a CGI fox companion that harkens a bit back to chaos reigning and a few adventurous diversions involving Saint Winifred (Erin Kellyman) and a scavenger (Barry Keoghan), with one masterful addition in the final reel that elevates the character study of Gawain.
The pacing may not be everyone’s speed, depending on how much you enjoy epic journeys and medieval trappings. But from Patel’s smoldering to the stellar production design (I want one of those crowns) there’s plenty to like in The Green Knight.
There’s still two months left of Dev Patel summer, but it’s pretty safe to say this one will be the hottest one on record until climate change melts us all.