The Green Knight (2021)
Directed by David Lowery
Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton
By Tim Basaraba
There are very few pieces of art I will automatically consume without question–but Grant Morrison’s comic books, Lupe Fiasco’s music, and any film with the A24 stamp are on my short list.
Unlike Grant and Lupe, A24 isn’t an artist, though, it’s a film production studio. Our government may want us to think that companies should have the same rights as you and I, but’s rare that a logo can convince me that what I am about to watch will be excellent. Such is the case with A24.
Should I list all the A24 films I have seen to prove my commitment? Yes, but I won’t. Instead, I will say that three of the studio’s releases changed what I thought was possible with cinema. Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin (2014), The Florida Project (2017) by Sean Baker and of course Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018). Would The Green Knight be the first A24 film I see in theaters since Midsommar to rise to this level of excellence?
Dev Patel in the lead role as Gawain automatically leveled up this Medieval film’s chances for glory. After first seeing the actor in the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire (2008) I hoped this talented young man would continue to work with exceptional directors like Danny Boyle. And he did. He was the lead in Neill Blomkamp’s insane follow up to District Nine, Chappie (2015), and starred in Garth Davis’ directorial debut Lion (2016). Although these three films all have a “fantastical” quality to them, they are somewhat grounded in reality. The Green Knight, however, was not. Could Dev go to different depths in this most fantastical of period pieces? The Green Knight is a visual fever dream that explores a hero’s journey in a way most films can’t. It is deep and ancient, relying less on the words spoken and more on a visual language we understand on a primordial level.
The rest of the film’s cast–though integral to the story–are far less important than Dev. He is our window into this reality. The people he meets are interpreted through the expressions on his face. In a way, we become him, and he becomes us.
Sarita Choudhury and Alicia Vikander are both spectacular in their limited roles. But the actor that took me out of the moment with a near silent squeal of “I love everything he’s been in” was Barry Keoghan. His over-the-top mischievous performance confused not only Gawain but myself.
The visuals of The Green Knight take this film to new heights. The confusion, anxiety and at times serenity of what is on screen is displayed beautifully with stark colors and moods. I have yet to see David Lower’sy other films, but if Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) or A Ghost Story (2017) are even half as beautifully filmed, I will watch them soon.
Some of the title cards before scenes come across as uninspiring but the choice to have them throughout is bold and I appreciated that. The film, like many from A24 is one that will need multiple viewings to fully appreciate but this task will be welcomed by me and others who trust the alphanumeric symbol.
If other Medieval films–which I haven’t seen–like The King (2019), The Name of the Rose (1986) or El Cid (1961), then I must watch them asap. But because I have no basis for comparison, I will skip it and flat out say The Green Knight is an A-, and what I assume is the best medieval film to date. (Please don’t send me hate tweets saying that Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975) is the greatest. Because it is not and after viewing it three times over 20 years and not laughing once it may not even be funny).