If anyone is looking for a different and deeper kind of Christmas movie, David Lowery's new film The Green Knight certainly fits the bill. Not since Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut has a story been told so subtly about the holiday season in so many forms. But with The Green Knight, there is so much more going on with its characters and situations that this incredible beast of a movie is in a category all its own.
In theaters July 30th - get your tickets at Fandango
The Green Knight is a diamond of a film that takes its own journey and allows its audience to follow, but strictly at its own pace with remarkable visuals, amazing performances, and a cavalcade of emotions that set the legend of Sir Gawain on a transformative adventure to be a better person. Even on Lowery's sixth film here, the Texas native is still revealing his personal psyche in his movies along with an unwavering and original vision to tell amazing stories his way where every film feels like it deserves a gold medal.
For anyone that remembers English classes at university or poetry 101, The Green Knight takes its cues from the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that was written hundreds of years ago by an anonymous person. Over the years, there have been a few takes on this poem, but none quite like Lowery's vision. Lowery is the perfect purveyor of cinema and anyone can see how his love of film continues to grow. His first film Ain't Them Body Saints paid a little tribute to Texas' own Terrence Malick, whereas the slow burn of the psychological horror movies of a few decades ago inspired A Ghost Story, to even the dramatic and emotional side that Spielberg explores in kid's films with Pete's Dragon. With all of these films, no matter how big or small - they all feel grounded and personal, which is truly exciting and forms this magic bond with the audience and the characters on screen. The Green Knight is no different and plays perfectly to these elements.
The film follows Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) in his most fantastic role yet, as a young man who spends his days and evenings at a brothel and getting drunk. He's the epitome of a good time without a care in the world, but on this one Christmas day, his aunt and uncle - King Arthur (Sean Harris) and Queen Guinevere (Kate Dickie) of Camelot ask him to sit by them at dinner. Gawain is clearly out of his league as he looks out at the brae knights at the round table, which is where his uncle expresses that he regrets not getting to know him more over the years. Gawain isn't exactly surprised as he knows he's done nothing with his life when compared to the royalty in the room, but his aunt reassures him that in time, he will be worthy of all the compliments.
This is where Gawain's mother and magic woman Morgan summons The Green Knight, a half-man, half-giant tree rides into the room on Christmas day and wants to play a game as if he's Jigsaw from the Saw movies. The Green Knight challenges any knight in the room to take his ax and with one striking blow, kill him. If they do not kill him, they must return to his Green chapel one year later to the date and receive their punishment - death. Sir Gawain accepts, which results in his date with his destiny one year later. This is where the film really starts on its impeccable journey of self-discovery as Sir Gawain embarks to meet his match.
What follows is an adventure that can be thrown in different genres of film. One is romantic, the other is horror, and another could be fantasy, where Lowery flawlessly weaves each chapter of the story into a cohesive narrative led by Gawain as he's tempted at every turn to do the right thing. Again, this is similar to the story of being visited by ghosts on Christmas. On his journey, he crosses paths with a young man (Barry Keoghan), who is stealing from the dead on a battlefield. He visits a supernatural woman looking for help, crosses paths with gentle giants, and is accompanied by a side-kick fox that ultimately leads him to a luxurious castle full of temptation with some familiar faces. All of these trials and obstacles have Sir Gawain making direct choices that will ultimately impact his life and make him the man his aunt and uncle see in him. It also makes for such a phenomenal transition in character when he finally comes face to face with the green knight again.
Lowery's pitch-perfect eye behind the camera has fully immersed everything and everyone watching into this old world with the amazing use of practical and digital Weta visual effects. Each scene looks beautiful and haunting at the same time as if there is another real-world that was discovered and used as an actual location. It's a visually stunning picture from start to finish. Everyone turns in amazing performances including the dual role of Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris, and Kate Dickey, however, it's Dev Patel's moment to shine and he does with such courage. Daniel Hart has come back for another collaboration with Lowery to set the mood for the film with some natural music cues that adds to the entire tone of the film. The Green Knight is pure excellence.