For anyone interested in independent cinema, A24’s The Green Knight promised to be a successful continuation of their line of low budget horror films. However, David Lowery’s adaptation of the Arthurian legend feels like a hit and a miss with a story that largely confuses the viewer while adding overly drawn-out moral lessons that are so obvious they clash with the abstract, dreamlike events that litter the film. 

What comes out of this is a frustrating viewing experience where the strange and unusual feel like an excuse to confuse rather than develop a rich, fulfilling world and narrative.

The setting of the story follows Sir Gawain, Arthur’s youngest knight and nephew as he takes up a challenge from the mysterious green knight, a humanoid tree-like figure, who allowed Gawain to chop his head off in return for exchanging the same blow a year later.  Gawain must set off to find the green chapel and prove himself a chivalrous knight, both to himself and to his fellow compatriots.

Watching through the film I was utterly confused at parts, especially towards the end of the film. I then read up the original story and realized Lowery removed parts and instead added new characters that are unnecessary for the story and don’t help the overarching message of truth and honesty which dominate the original tale. When Lowery does try to discuss the original themes of the story they are done in ways that feel clunky and contrived.

One thing that will strike the viewer immediately is some of the odd editing choices in the film, which usually take the viewer out of the immersion the film tries to create. The credits show that Lowery was behind the screenplay, directing, editing and even worked as a producer on the film. This sort of total power over the project raises questions about why A24 would let a single person have so much dictation over a film, and how much better the end product would have been if an experienced team handled all of these key departments instead of a single man.

Instead, we are forced to have a film in which characters discuss the nature of green (several times!) and our main character, Gawain, has barely any arc, starting as a lazy, unfit knight and then ending largely the same way. It’s as if Lowery was so wrapped up in making the film seem mysterious that he forgot to tell an actual story with character progression and developments. The cinematography does redeem the film somewhat with beautiful landscapes and visuals scattered throughout.

For those who looked forward to the film like I did, I recommend watching the Green Knight simply to satisfy your curiosity. But don’t expect anything that will fit together in a cohesive sense.

Anton Rivas Pertile – Film & TV Writer