The Green Knight (Amazon/Vudu). Inspired by the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this movie is about Gawain, nephew of the king. When a green knight comes to the king’s court on Christmas day to play a game, Gawain volunteers for it. The knight will allow Gawain to strike a blow anywhere, but in return Gawain must seek out the knight at the green chapel in one year and allow him to return the blow.
Gawain beheads the knight and spends a year in debauchery and dishonor, mulling what to do about the game. When the year ends and it’s time to seek the green chapel, Gawain resolves to go on this quest to
attain honor and knighthood. On the journey, Gawain encounters various odd ball characters and situations, such as a talking fox and an old, blindfolded woman in a strange castle.
In the end, Gawain and the green knight meet again. Gawain struggles with whether to follow through with his obligation to offer up his head to the knight or bow to his sense of self preservation and refuse. Is honor worth the ultimate sacrifice?
This film is visually spectacular. Dev Patel (Gawain) turns in a tremendous performance. The music is haunting. The rest of movie? Pretty darn strange. Full of symbolism and metaphor, the film doesn’t give a lot of narrative guidance to the viewer. You’re kind of left to yourself to sort out what is going on and what it all means. I’m not sure I was ultimately very successful at that. When the credits started to roll, I sat back in my chair and muttered, WTF?
Some elements of the film were unintentionally funny. The CGI talking fox was not only bizarre but seemed to be helicoptered in from a lame Disney movie. Also, the film is broken up by cue cards introducing the next scene. Despite the fancy gothic lettering, this was really hokey.
I recommend watching the movie for its outstanding cinematography and for Dev Patel. As a meditation on what is honor, the film is kind of meh. The symbolism is hit and miss. Sometimes it’s provocative and affecting, other times it’s anything but. I can’t speak to whether the film is a respectable interpretation of the medieval poem or not. I remember reading the poem once for my Lit class in college, but the details are a little fuzzy. I think I fell asleep during the lecture.
Pig (Amazon/Vudu). Recluse former chef, Robin Feld, lives way back in the forests of Oregon with his truffle hunting pig. Other than occasional interactions with the buyer of his truffles, Amir, Robin apparently has nothing much to do with the outside world. Then his life is shattered when a bunch of thugs beat him up and steal his pig.
With Amir tagging along, Robin descends on the Portland restaurant scene to hunt down the dirty rotten scoundrels who stole his pig and get it back. As the pig odyssey unfolds, the pain and loss both Robin, Amir, and other characters have suffered comes into soft focus. Although the film has moments of violence and ugliness, it’s a story about love and the suffering that often goes along with it.
Robin is played by Nicholas Cage. Cage has been rightly praised by many reviewers for his role here. He doesn’t say a lot, but his expressions and body language carry unusual depth. Basically, Cage is the film. If he doesn’t give this masterful performance, or if a lesser actor had played the part, this movie probably isn’t very good.
Pig is a must-see film for Nicholas Cage’s performance. Apart from Cage, there’s not all that much to this movie. It’s moody, mostly shot in the dark, and dialogue sparse. The film is suggestive of great drama, but we only see the tip of the iceberg. You have the sense that the story as a whole is underdone. Plus, themes of love and loss orbit around a pig (and I don’t even remember if the pig had a name). Maybe it’s because the pig wasn’t in the movie all that long, but I just didn’t feel the pig love. Sorry.
Anyway, enthusiastic kudos to Cage, but also a round of applause for Alan Arkin and Alex Wolff. All three did a great job. But for them, I couldn’t recommend this movie.
Coda (Apple TV+). Seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only person in her family who can hear. Mom (Marlee Maitlin), Dad (Troy Kotsur), and older brother (Daniel Durant) are all deaf (in the film and in real life). She is a child of deaf adults, or CODA.
Ruby is vital to the family and its fishing business, which is fighting to survive economic hardship. She’s the interpreter for everyone, relaying what the hearing world says to her family through sign language. The family interactions and dynamic are a real treat to watch. They’re down to earth and authentic, even salty at times.
Ruby's life changes after she signs up for choir and dis-
covers that she can really sing. Partnered with classmate, Miles, Ruby also discovers love and for the first time sees a possible destiny for herself beyond working on the fishing boat with her family. Specially tutored by her ‘does not suffer fools lightly’ choir teacher, her voice develops into something wonderful and she’s encouraged to apply to a highly selective music college. Soon Ruby confronts a tough choice. Does she set aside her dreams to stay with her family, for whom she’s a vital liaison to the hearing world, or does she leave home and see where her talents take her?
Coda is a special film. At times poignant, funny, and uplifting, this is a story about transitioning to adulthood and separation from parents in the context of a deaf family. It’s a wonderful movie that truly has universal appeal. I struggle to find any significant criticisms. This could have been a saccharine Hallmark type of movie, but it isn’t at all. A terrific script and outstanding performances by the cast elevate the film into something beautiful and moving.
So, an enthusiastic thumbs up for Coda. This is one you want to be sure to watch.