Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 10 minutes, Director – David Lowery
Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) sets out on a long journey to the Green Chapel, where he will receive the same treatment he gave to the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) a year before, having his head cut off.
There’s a highly traditional feel to writer-director David Lowery’s latest feature, The Green Knight. Not traditional in a filmic sense, but in terms of a medieval folktale. The look and feel of the piece is deeply rooted in its setting – both visually and in terms of the way the story is told. We see Dev Patel’s Sir Gawain, nephew to King Arthur (Sean Harris), venture out into the world to find the Green Chapel. It’s here that he will reencounter the towering, tree-like figure of the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), to receive the same treatment that he gave to him a year ago in Arthur’s court as part of a challenge – to be beheaded.
Throughout his slow-burn journey he comes across thieves, lords and a talking fox. The film feels as if it knows that it’s constructed with an episodic nature. And while this does heighten the detail of the film it does cause certain elements to slightly drag; and the need to adjust from scene to scene, or rather location to location, element to element. There’s some interesting elements dotted throughout, however because of the generally slow nature of the two hour plus run-time the film doesn’t manage to properly grab your attention without you gradually drifting away. In the end the style prevents the true dramatic extent of multiple scenes from properly coming through.
This clearly isn’t a film full of high-stakes drama – although the dread and fear of Patel’s character is clearly shown throughout – and action, that’s not the aim in any way. But, the want for at least a bit more excitement or slight flair within this world does begin to arise. It’s evident that The Green Knight is perhaps not intended for a mass audience, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are clearly plenty who have loved it. But, there are likely to also be those who are put off by the slow and episodic pacing that helps to further establish the tone and detail, alongside the detailed visual nature.
As the film finally begins to properly build-up to the next encounter with Ineson’s titular threat things also slightly pick-up. Lowery begins to explore the darkness and fear that Gawain has felt throughout the film in various different ways. From his increasing trepidation to his fearful build-up to the actual event he’s been worrying about over the course of his days-long journey. It’s perhaps the highlight of the film as everything is finally solidified and begins to be rounded off, after a quite lengthy and not always fully engaging journey.
You don’t quite wish for Terry Gilliam to turn up with two coconut halves, but The Green Knight could do with a bit more excitement and flair, aside from the detailed visual nature, to prevent it from being a not completely engaging, although atmospheric, slow-burn.