A24 has become a reliable source for quality arthouse films. Minari was a triumph last year as were Uncut Gems and Midsommar the year before. The Green Knight, the latest film from David Lowery, is no exception. An adaptation of a 14th century medieval poem called “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, Lowery’s version stars Dev Patel as Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew. On a fateful Christmas Day, Gawain accepts the challenge of a mysterious verdant being known as The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). The film follows Gawain as he sets out on a fantastical quest one year later to fulfill a promise he likely should never have made.
Lowery was already a part of the A24 family, having written and directed the 2017 drama A Ghost Story. His most recent effort is his most ambitious work to date. And also his most appealing.
Written, produced, edited, and directed by Lowery, The Green Knight maintains a unique, singular vision. The original poem had previously been adapted into a film twice by director Stephen Weeks. His first adaptation was made in 1973. Weeks later remade the film in 1984 under the title Sword of the Valiant, with none other than Sean Connery in the role of the Green Knight. Weeks made fairly straightforward representations of the poem. Lowery’s rendition is quite different and opens the door to audiences who aren’t normally interested in medieval folklore. His stylistic approach truly sets it apart from other films in the King Arthur universe.
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The film likely both benefited and suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the cancellation of 2020’s South by Southwest, Lowery was able to put more time into crafting his final cut before eventually releasing the film in July of 2021. While being presented with the truest version of Lowery’s efforts, the film probably would have received a significant boost from the film festival market had it not been stripped of the opportunity.
Dev Patel shines as Gawain, the antagonising protagonist. He has the vulnerability needed to pull off the kind of turn his character makes towards the end of the film. His portrayal allows audiences a chance to relate, bringing him down to a more human level than the knightly stories that came before Lowery’s interpretation.
Other cast members include Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Sarita Choudhury (The Hunger Games), Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and Ineson (The Witch) as the titular character. Each performance is the perfect complement to Patel along his journey. Ineson, especially, provides some memorable moments. His booming voice under the stunning prosthetics he wore combined to create something so mystifying that any one of us might have taken him up on his challenge.
Music for the film was composed by Daniel Hart. A frequent collaborator of Lowery since his first feature, St. Nick. Hart has also been a featured violinist for St. Vincent and The Polyphonic Spree. Hart’s mix of traditional and modern compositions provide the perfect layer of sound design for the film. From the instrumentation to the chorus and vocals, Hart’s soundtrack is a perfect tonal guide throughout The Green Knight.
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After a break-even performance at the box-office, The Green Knight is now available on home video. Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy are all packaged behind the same glorious red background and yellow lettering used in the theatrical poster art.
Special features accompanying the home release include three separate looks into how Lowery’s vision came to fruition. The first is an overall discussion of the film by the director and cast members. The second bonus feature focuses on the visual effects artists and their work, while the third centers on the artist who helped design the film’s titles. Altogether, these extras provide a satisfying glimpse into the essential components that make The Green Knight.
“Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making The Green Knight” is a making of featurette and the premier bonus feature on the home release. Lowery sits down to discuss choices he made for the film. One such decision was making Gawain more flawed and untested than in the original poem, in order to allow more interesting character progression in his cinematic version. Patel later revels over his opportunity to work with Lowery and the experience of playing a character he felt so much excitement to portray. Vikander and Edgerton also share positive experiences they had making the film in Ireland. While the mysteries of the story aren’t revealed, this mini doc breaks down the logistics of The Green Knight’s successful production.
Practitioners of Magic: Visual Effects is another featurette, this time focusing specifically on the visual effects in the film. Crew members talk about their experiences and how they were more of a compliment to Lowery’s live-action directing. One of the more charming qualities of The Green Knight was how visual effects were only relied upon when no practical options were available.
Illuminating Technique: Title Design is a detailed glimpse into the lettering and chapters within The Green Knight. One of my few complaints about the film was the titles. While the font was fitting for an Arthurian tale, it was hard to decipher at times. The edits were also too quick in certain chapters, leaving me unsure of what I was supposed to have read. While it was helpful to see how this aspect of the film was developed, it remains the lone disappointment to me.
I love a good commentary, so it’s a slight disappointment one is not included with this release. With all the control Lowery had over the film, it would be interesting to get his focused perspective on The Green Knight. It’s likely one will be recorded and featured on a future release. For now, it’s an enjoyable film worth revisiting for its stunning visuals along with an exciting performance from one of cinema’s brightest stars. The Green Knight is a rare gem in a paltry slate of theatrical movies released in 2021. It’s easily one of Lowery’s best works and one of the best titles released in 2021. The flick is well worth checking out.