What to watch | An intriguing art film, an action thriller and a harrowing war drama

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After being challenged to a duel, Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) must embark on a quest to face the mysterious Green Knight. (PHOTO: A24)
After being challenged to a duel, Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) must embark on a quest to face the mysterious Green Knight. (PHOTO: A24)

The Green Knight ***

Fantasy adventure. With Dev ­Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel ­Edgerton. Director: David Lowery.

Loosely based on the mediaeval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this film follows Gawain (Patel), King Arthur’s untried and slightly naive nephew, as he sets out on a quest to confront a magical stranger (Ralph Ineson) after the creature challenges Arthur’s knights to a duel. 

Along the way, Gawain meets benign and unsavoury characters alike, as he seeks to prove his worth in a chivalric society where honour is paramount.

Dreamlike and ethereal, with beautiful cinematography and strong performances, The Green Knight seems to have everything going for it yet feels oddly hollow. 

While each individual element is excellent, too many disparate ideas are crammed into one film. Were it not for Patel’s magnetism, this flick would’ve fallen apart. 

His nuanced performance is a lifeline, although Vikander (Tomb Raider) is also superb in dual roles as Gawain’s tragic love interest and an enigmatic and sinister woman he meets on his quest.

Ultimately, The Green Knight leaves a little too much open to interpretation and even a rewatch doesn’t really satisfy. Director Lowery’s vision feels half-formed, leaving you yearning for what could’ve been.

– BIANCA LAMBRECHTS

2021. 130 MIN. 16VSN. AVAILABLE ON DSTV BOX OFFICE.

Let Him Go ***

Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Let Him Go
Diane Lane and Kevin Costner in Let Him Go. (PHOTO: Universal Pictures)

Drama. After bringing gravitas to Man of Steel (2013) in supporting roles as Superman’s parents, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane get the chance to showcase their chemistry for an entire film. 

In Let Him Go they play retired lawman George and his wife, Margaret Blackledge, ranchers in ’60s Montana in the US whose happy existence is shattered when their only son dies after falling from a horse. 

Three years later, their son’s ­widow, Lorna (Kayli Carter), marries the volatile Donnie Weboy (William Brittain), a member of an infamous crime ­family, and the new couple leave town with the Blackledges’ beloved ­toddler grandson. 

Determined to find them, Margaret sets off in the family car on winding roads across the empty plains of the region, reluctantly ­accompanied by George, who worries that nothing good can come from a confrontation with the Weboys.  

Based on the novel by Larry ­Watson, Let Him Go is a gripping but ­uneven mixture of genres that doesn’t quite gel. 

Starting out as a moving drama about grief, it morphs into a drawn-out western as the couple travel across the bleak but beautiful landscape, stopping in towns where their inquiries about the Weboys are met with increasing hostility. 

After this slow-burn middle section, the film becomes a tense and bloody thriller when the Blackledges finally find the Weboy family home and encounter matriarch Blanche ­(Lesley Manville), an unpredictable, genuinely scary Ma Barker-type. 

Manville (Phantom Thread) ­usually plays reserved Brits and her transformation here is impressive – if only she had more scenes. The whole film builds up to a battle of wills between two very different mothers, but Lane and Manville get far too little screen time together and the Blackledges make some frustrating mistakes in dealing with the gangster family. 

It’s a film of three parts that don’t quite connect, but worth watching for veteran actors Costner, Lane and Manville’s assured performances.

2020. 113 MIN. 16DPV. AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AND APPLE TV+.

First They Killed My Father *****  

Sareum Srey Moch, First They Killed My Father
Sareum Srey Moch in First They Killed My Father. (PHOTO: Netflix)

War drama. In 1975 Cambodia, five-year-old Loung Ung (Sareum Srey Moch) enjoys an ordinary middle-­class life ­until her father (Phoeung Kompheak), a former ­soldier, is killed and the family split up to ­survive. 

Loung is ripped away from her mother (Sveng Socheata) and ­forcibly trained as a child soldier while her siblings are sent to labour camps under the merciless Khmer Rouge regime.  

With this, her fourth feature film as director, Angelina Jolie redeems herself after the dismal By the Sea (2015). 

Co-written by Jolie and human rights activist Loung Ung and based on Ung’s memoir, this epic movie in the Khmer language captures the horrors of the brutal communist regime that ruled the Southeast Asian country with an iron fist for four years through the eyes of a girl who lived through it. 

This fresh perspective challenges and confronts desensitised viewers with the genocide perpetrated there, which many might’ve forgotten. In one of the most memorable scenes Loung sees people beating a captured Khmer Rouge soldier, whom she imagines could be her ­father, and she experiences flashbacks to all the violence she’s endured. In this scene and throughout the movie, Moch’s performance is heartrending.

This moving film was nominated for a Bafta award for best film not in the English language. 

If you’re sceptical about Jolie as a director, watch this thought-­provoking work that’s the pinnacle of her storytelling and artistry. 

Let’s hope she steps behind the camera again, and soon. 

– PIETER VAN ZYL 

2017. 136 MIN. 16V. AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX. 

A: All ages   D: Drugs   H: Horror   L: Language   N: Nudity   P: Prejudice   PG: Parental guidance S: Sex  V: Violence

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