What is likely to also be green is the face of an unsuspecting audience member when leaving their screening of The Green Knight, a new fantasy film based on the Arthurian story featuring Sir Gawain and the titular creature, adapted by director-writer-editor David Lowery. Dev Patel is the one playing Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris), as he accepts a challenge from the visiting Green Knight (Ralph Ineson, buried under tree-like prosthetics) to land a successful blow on him in order to receive a green axe, on the condition that Gawain must receive a similar strike a year later on Christmas. Gawain manages to decapitate the Green Knight, who then gets up and returns to his Green Chapel. Nearly a year later, Gawain embarks on a journey to the chapel as he battles his own sense of honour, pride and disconnection with nature.
Even if you're not aware of the themes until the very end or once you've slept a night on it, there is astounding beauty to lay your eyes on while you ride off to the woodlands with Gawain. There isn't a single moment when you don't marvel at how the film only cost $15 million, Andrew Droz Palermo's photography lighting the way whether that lets you sit with the main character and a sneaky scavenger (Barry Keoghan) at a foggy meadow, or gives you more clinical compositions during faster paced ending sequence. Practical makeup work on the Green Knight is perfectly blended with impressive costumes and set designs while more traditional makeup is married with simplicity of nature. Even VFX creatures like a fox or walking giants, as well as the film's many locations, never feel compromised or fall short of Lowery's vision.
Just as The Green Knight's visual presentation is in order, so are its sonic landscapes. Daniel Hart's score can be heavy-handed at times but it's also playful and daring with odd percussive choices, while taking similar inspiration of forest sounds that also play into the overall sound design (supervised by Johnny Marshall) which sometimes acts as a main character, like in previously mentioned scene with the scavenger or whenever Green Knight moves around.
Where you can find less honour, so to speak, is when Lowery seems to focus more on visuals than anything else. The script is broken into chapters and a couple of them around the hour mark don't work all that well. Joel Edgerton (as The Lord) and one of Alicia Vikander's dual roles as The Lady (she also plays Essel, Gawain's lover) don't seem to be in the same film tonally as Patel and everyone else. While chapters around their scenes can give a bit more insight on Gawain and his mother (Sarita Choudhury), they don't play into the ending so much that you couldn't take away all the same things from it.
Smileys: Cinematography, score, makeup, sound design
Frowneys: Some issues with pacing and acting
Few fox are given, only a single one.