The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is steeped in ambiguity – we don’t even know the name of its original author – and countless writers have attempted to make sense of it over the years (including JRR Tolkien). In adapting the 14th-century tale for the screen, David Lowery chooses to lean into the strangeness of the original text, and the results are electrifying.

This is not the medieval England we’ve seen depicted in films like Excalibur (or, indeed, Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Andrew Droz Palermo’s psychedelic cinematography, the striking costumes, and Daniel Hart’s droning score all create a layer of surreality reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s take on Noah’s Ark. We could be seeing events that took place 1,000 years ago or a glimpse of what will happen 1,000 years in the future.

Everyone in the ensemble cast is terrific: special mention must go to Alicia Vikander’s intriguing dual roles and the inimitable Ralph Ineson’s menacing performance as the Ent-like wraith of the title. But it’s up to Dev Patel to carry the bulk of the film, and his performance as Sir Gawain is one of the very best of his career.

There’s an interesting parallel with his leading role in another adaptation of a literary classic: The Personal History of David Copperfield. Both are stories about young men desperate to make their mark on the world, even as they struggle to define themselves. Just as David Copperfield is given all manner of nicknames, Gawain has the title of knight thrust upon him by everyone he meets, and the weight of all their expectations often threatens to become unbearable.

The Green Knight is a trip in every sense of the word: an odyssey into the unknown that revels in its strangeness at every turn. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.



CAST: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie

DIRECTOR: David Lowery

WRITERS: David Lowery (screenplay), Anonymous (original poem)

SYNOPSIS: A fantasy retelling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.