Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Ireland/Canada/USA/United Kingdom, 2021. Sailor Bear, Bron Studios, A24, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Ley Line Entertainment, Wild Atlantic Pictures. Screenplay by David Lowery. Cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo. Produced by Toby Halbrooks, Tim Headington, James M. Johnston, David Lowery, Theresa Steele Page. Music by Daniel Hart. Production Design by Jade Healy. Costume Design by Malgosia Tuzanska. Film Editing by David Lowery.
The tales of kings and knights that pre-date recorded history have been given a gorgeously ahistorical, imaginative and artistically vibrant treatment in this film by David Lowery. Gawain (Dev Patel) is the nephew of the Arthur (Sean Harris) and Guinevere (Kate Dickie), summoned to their court and requested to amuse them with a tale of a feat that he has accomplished. The young man, neither a great knight or warrior, has nothing to share, so his mother Morgane Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury) summons up a Green Knight with her magic and he appears before them all, a giant warrior hewn from wood who engages Gawain in a game of wills: if the young man can land a blow on him, he must travel to his opponent’s dwelling place in a year and allow a blow be landed upon himself in return. Gawain manages to cut the knight’s head off, then as his legend grows throughout the kingdom for this victory anxiously avoids thought of what awaits him in as the year passes. When he sets out on his journey to satisfy this pact, he comes across dangerous and wild adventures including being robbed on a battlefield by immoral scavengers, restoring the skeleton of a romantically melancholy ghost and making the acquaintance of a lord and lady who seduce him. The well-worn stereotypes of quest narratives (such as the temptations to abandon it for something more instantly gratifying) are infused with new life by Lowery’s exciting visuals, while the lightly philosophical treatment of themes of masculinity, bravery and the meaning of life are poignant without ever becoming pretentious, providing depth and meaning to a film that never feels self-important but always enchants you with its mysteries and inventions. Lowery can hardly ever film a shot without giving you something you feel you’ve never seen before, capping things off with a conclusion that shows the filmmaker off at his finest, a fascinating fantasy version of The Last Temptation of Christ that confirms that this is the best take on Arthurian legends since John Boorman’s Excalibur.