Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Joel Edgerton.
Directed by David Lowry
Where I Watched It: Apple VOD
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: An adaptation of the classic tale of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) and the Green Knight, directed by the guy who had Casey Affleck walk around in.a white sheet for an entire film.
What Works: I know this film is divisive, and I only see a few reasons… maybe minor changes I’ll get to later… as to why this film isn’t in the Oscar conversation. But, real talk. Can we please start talking more about David Lowry as a director? After Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Old Man and The Gun, and A Ghost Story, this is clearly a man with vision, and a very specific look at how he plans out his films. The Green Knight is no exception.
I think people go into this expecting something that it is not, and they feel cheated. I went into this film hearing from both critics I usually agree with that this was either one of the best films of the year, or one of the worst. It was like, there is no in between. Even with audiences, it has a mediocre 6.6 but a glorious 85 Metacritic. Clearly, no matter how I feel about this, someone will feel the other way.
Overall, I liked it. It basically introduces us to Gaiwain, who seems somewhat unremarkable, yet (without spoiling a story I’m sure many people don’t know even though it’s been around for forever) ends up on this rather introspective journey of discovery as he awaits certain death.
Much like David Lowry explored those we leave behind in A ghost Story, forcing an individual to watch as life moves on without him, he tackles another one of life’s great mysteries by forcing his lead character to stare down his impending death for the majority of the film. And Dev Patel does really terrific work. It’s a great role, to play someone who is just so close to having everything he ever wanted, but through fate seems to know that will never happen, yet he still has time to meditate on his life and legacy, and how he plans to face his assumed demise.
Lowry does some really interesting things with this Tory, but like a few of his past works, he ends up making the film more artistic than mass audiences are willing to accept, which is probably why you don’t know what this is. It could have been a major release, but it’s far more interesting with what Lowry has chosen to do here.
What Doesn’t Work: At a certain point, I really got tired of the girdle. Like, please just burn it. Throw it away. Knowing that he was having sex while wearing only this girdle was so odd to picture at certain points. I get the symbolism, but… it just kind of distracted me. Sure, there is a payoff, but was it worth it? I’m not sure.
The film never really lets the supporting cast do anything substantial, which is a shame for Vikander, who deserved more than she got. I know the film is about Gawain, but no other actor made an impact on me. Some of them whispered at such an intensely low level it caused me to have to turn the volume up so loud to hear, then the audio description comes in blasting. Just little things.
Mostly, I think we could have had a better establishment of Gawain, in a way that makes the audience actually like him before he goes on his year long quest. I didn’t care about him, yet I still found his journey compelling. Imagine if I had actually been invested in him.
Really, there aren’t any major changes I’d make. It’s a strong film, the runtime isn’t brutal, it has a voice and unique perspective, a great performance… really everything you should want. Is it my favorite film of the year? No, but none of Lowry’s films have been, though I respect all of them, and think he’s a huge talent waiting for that true home run.
The Blind Perspective: Alright. Real talk. I saw this with AD. If you even think, for one second, to attempt to watch this without it, as a visually impaired individual, slap your head right now and get that thought right out of there. This would be an impossible film to watch. Truly, if this wasn’t described, the experience for someone blind would be like torture. There are LONG, and I do mean LONG, sequences with no dialogue. At a certain point in the film, dialogue just stops. The film goes for about 20 minutes through a rather pivotal sequence, in which nothing is ever said, and then the film closes with some tiny brief dialogue. You wouldn’t understand the ending, which is kind of the whole point. I’ve yet to watch a film and review something that required audio description as much as this does. Luckily, I had it, and the description was great.
Final Thoughts: Not my favorite film of the year. I’m still really excited to see what David Lowry does next. I think it’s a really strong, just slightly imperfect film. David Lowry is a beast waiting to unleash something truly transcendent on us at some point. I feel an Oscar in his future, for sure.He’s so interesting, and this film proves his worth in spades.
Final Grade: B+