WHAT I LIKED: The fact its events are so surreal might lead some to feel that David Lowery's adaptation of King Arthur's nephew Gawain confronting 'The Green Knight,' is in some way a subtle - or even genuinely surrealist - film, but that couldn't really be further from the case.
On the one hand, it is true that seeing the titular antagonist realised as a giant tree - as he first challenges Dev Patel's Gawain to strike him in return for his exacting revenge a year later - might make you think there's a deeper connection to something being suggested. It may equally apppear for example that Gawain retrieving a ghost's decapitated head from a pond, or encountering an army of fog-clouded bald statues on the way to meet said revenge, might be attempting to provoke something too. But in reality, as the film goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that few of such surreal moments or dreams exist in service of anything thematically interesting or ambiguous at all.
Instead, they're simply there to bring the mythology to life and to rather functionally drag Dev Patel through the woods on his hero's journey. That's clear in large part because Lowery shoves it down our throats with a cinematic language that's actually extremely on-the-nose and theatrical. In the pivotal opening challenge for example, Daniel Hart's score swells absurdly, the scene cuts constantly to Gawain's terrified mother, and the King waits on baited breath, all whilst the camera zooms in on Patel's face who's clearly established as someone as scared as he is desperate to prove himself. There's no thematic relevance, just a kind of overtness that's the same throughout.
That over-egged directorial approach does captivate to some degree, but really it's the humanity fighting for its place within all of that which is the engaging thing, as Dev Patel brings the central conflict of his character to life brilliantly. Then, a final-act monologue from his lover Alicia Vikander about how his quest to prove himself is pointless and foolish (something about the red of blood inevitably turning to the decaying, inconsequential green of death) brilliantly puts that struggle into some kind of perspective, and that addmittedly lends the inevitable conclusion - even its more surreal turns - a degree of poignancy.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: In the end though, the humanity gets rather lost amongst the surreal moments, and that's because it not only serves little thematic purpose, but often actually fails in its attempts to add to Gawain's journey and instead detracts from it. If anything, that points to a lack of faith in simple performances to tell a character's story on Lowery's part, or at the very least a lack of direcorial discipline and restraint. Whatever the case though, it muddies a potentially interesting character journey into something often rather tiring and inaccessible.
VERDICT: David Lowery's mythical and strange 'The Green Knight,' sends Dev Patel on an illusory and terrified hero's journey to prove himself, but it's often undermined by overt and largely aimless surrealism.