The Green Knight

Review by Katie McKenna

I once heard a rule for watching films called ‘Shut Up It’s a Tuesday’, which tells you to ignore plot inconsistencies.  A lot of the best films have them. If the story is engaging it doesn’t matter. No one ever hears Charles Foster Kane say “Rosebud”, but that’s ok. The film keeps you so enthralled, you’re not thinking about the practicalities of this man’s death. Not every plot needs to be rock solid, but every film should make you care. Emotion is the foundation of the film. When that’s missing it exposes all the other flaws, and the whole thing crumbles. This is what happened to The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021).

Based on a 14th century poem, The Green Knight follows Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) as he embarks on a quest to confront the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) in order to prove himself and fulfill his destiny. 

All the individual pieces of this film are all great. Patel’s performance is a tour de force. With a single expression he shows us all the holes in the brave mask Gawain is putting on. In the hands of a weaker actor, this role would fall completely flat. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, giving the barren fields of Ireland that we see every day a uniquely sinister feel; almost like it’s a character itself. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the film. There isn’t any specific flaw you can point out but The Green Knight just feels empty.

While I watched the film, I had a strange feeling deep down and afterwards as I walked home I tried to put a name on it. It wasn’t until the next day that I knew what it was: during the film I had felt nothing. The piece that made you care in the jigsaw puzzle of the film was missing. Gawain is set up as a classic anti-hero. He is someone who wants to be good but has something deeply rooted within him keeping him from being the person he wants to be. Yet I didn’t believe it. His choices felt calculated, intentional, and consequently very staged. Throughout the film I kept asking myself; ‘is this what Gawain would do, or what the plot needs him to do?’ The film never pulls you in, leaving you on the outside spotting all the holes in the story.

It’s easy to like The Green Knight, it’s an epic tale with beautiful cinematography and stellar performances. On the other hand, it’s hard to love it as The Green Knight seems to prioritise the wrong things making it less than the sum of its parts. When I think of my favourite films, I think of how they made me laugh or cry, those are the things that stay with you after you leave the cinema. And maybe when you watch those films, you’ll find mistakes and plot holes, but you know what, shut up it’s a Tuesday.

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