The Green Knight

The Green Knight ★★★★

Beguiling and asymmetrical, David Lowery's medieval tale is based on a 14th-century chivalric poem and often has the kind of lofty aspirations such an adaptation suggests. Not so much an adventure film as a dream journey, Dev Patel's Sir Gawain is a questing hero, encountering giants, seductions, foes, and mythic foxes and engaging these trials with a blinkered sense of wonder and melancholy. This is an unconventionally paced and structured film despite its familiar costuming—there are few climactic battles or full-throated speeches. It ambles along and decompresses into a smoky haze at times—are we watching a righteous man on his legendary mission? A fool and a coward beleaguered by his own hubris? A dashing but clumsy novice who can hardly handle his own weapon? The answers are yes. Lowery completely recut his own film during the pandemic delay, and you can sense a reconfigured, far more patient version at play. Lowery is already more comfortable than most with languor and restraint (see: A Ghost Story) and unafraid of "unsatisfying" conclusions (see also: A Ghost Story). But what is so striking about this film, easily one of the most handsomely and unabashedly formal of the year, is its gentle sense of grace. It doesn't seem all that interested in sweeping conclusions or conclusions with sweep. You live and then you die. Live virtuously or do not. Keep your word or fail to. Honor thyself or fuck around in the woods. It's your decision. You are the author of your own fate.