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Movie Review: 'The Green Knight' Is An Exquisite Wonder

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Have you ever been surprised to realize you really, truly love a movie?

I liked director David Lowery’s new film The Green Knight very, very much, but it wasn’t until, well, basically this very moment that I learned I actually love it on a deep level, when everything I’m trying to write about the film can’t do it justice.

This is Lowery’s adaptation of the 14th-century chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with Dev Patel playing Gawain… or GOW-en, if you prefer… or even GAR-wen, a pronunciation the actor playing King Arthur brought to the table and that Lowery decided to roll with, nodding to the fact that there are already multiple interpretations of the name and of the original romance itself. In fact, “roll with it” seems to have been Lowery’s mantra here, as he relates, updates, alters, and enhances the original work, incorporating an array of legends and mythologies, and pieces from his dazzling imagination.

Gawain is not yet a knight here when the mysterious Green Knight rides into court, challenging anyone there to a game in which they would strike him with their sword and take possession of his massive battle axe, on the condition that one year hence, that person would meet him to receive a comparable blow. Gawain takes up the challenge and hacks off the Green Knight’s head, at which point the decapitated man scoops the head up and leaves, laughing, to await Gawain.

I gather the original work glosses over Gawain’s journey to receive his fate, but this takes up much of the film, and oh my, what Lowery does. He fills the journey with strangeness, and danger, and moments of such exquisite wonder that I felt I was melting into my seat. It’s not important to know exactly what’s happening at every moment, and you won’t—this is more like a symphony, where you understand the feelings if not the exact intention.

Many thousands of words will be written about The Green Knight and its themes, but this is not the place for those. What I can tell you is that I haven’t stopped thinking about it, and all I want to do is to see it again.

The Green Knight is in theaters.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.