What’s so fascinating about “The Green Knight,” a haunting, richly-layered retelling of the classic Arthurian legend, is the amount of artistic license given to writer / director David Lowery. It is clear the studio let him craft the exact movie he envisioned and wanted to make, which is commendable on so many levels. The end result is a film with a unique creative vision that’s true to Lowery, and fans of the director will appreciate every last dreamy frame.
More thoughtful than action-oriented, this fantasy adventure tells the story of King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), a young and reckless man who accepts a quest to confront the Green Knight, a being who exists solely to test men who dare take him on. It’s a test of Sir Gawain’s physical strength, but also is a deeper exploration of his moral character and sense of worthiness. It’s the type of story Lowery seems to gravitate towards, a solitary journey with existentialist themes.
Above all, Lowery is a visual storyteller, and he takes his time with this handsome looking film. There’s showy camerawork and stunning set pieces, and it all suits his sensibility and style as a director. This is a film that’s ripe with symbolism, and it will be impossible to catch it all in one viewing.
Patel delivers an impressive leading man performance, carrying the film with a confidence and poise I’ve not seen from him so far in his career. It’s an awards-worthy turn, especially when it comes to earning credibility in the indie world.
The film incorporates supernatural special effects that create a jarring discord in the flow of the storytelling, but the meaningful elements are what make “The Green Knight” feel so special. It reminds me of “A Ghost Story,” but with 14th century knights. It’s unusual, it’s far from mainstream, and its pacing may be too sluggish for some viewers, but if you are a fan of Lowery, this film will be right up your alley.