The King (2019)

Netflix-The-King-Timothee-Chalamet-e1572793056636-700x299

Food: To celebrate Friendsgiving, my group of friends headed out to Rockaway Beach to snuggle up in a house that had enough room to host us, and collaborated potluck style. We had a ton of food, so I am not going to get into everything for obvious reasons. But I am definitely going to give out a few fun unexpected recommendations… One, my friend brought green cayenne peppers, filled with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon and then broiled. Two, we had a starter that was just a bunch bite-sized pieces of duck with spiced cranberry jam. Three, I  made cranberry jell-o (meant to replace cranberry sauce) which was made with raspberry jello mix broiled with pineapple juice, and filled with cranberry sauce, apple slices, walnuts, and crushed pineapple.

Film: “The King,” by David Michôd, is an expansive piece that explores the early years of Henry V’s reign as the King, when he was unexpectedly forced into this position, particularly at a time when tensions were high between England and France. Loosely, this is based on the Henriad, a collection of stories about the monarchy, by Shakespeare.

Timothée Chalamet displays an array of maturity and depth, as Henry “Hal” V, moving seamlessly from the raucous and loose playboy to the volatile king amidst a war.  When we first meet him, he is galavanting around with Falstaff, his closest comrade, played unrecognizably by Joel Edgerton. They spend their time in pubs, either sleeping with women or sleeping off a hangover. Hal is unconcerned with anything or anyone, and you can almost smell the booze sweating through his pores.

His father, King Henry IV, is a belligerent tyrant, spitting and visibly grimy.  Ben Mendelson plays this role a sloppy authority that is chilling. Portraying the younger son with the same desperation and naivety that he did as Tommen in Game of Thrones, is Dean-Charles Chapman. Both delivered exceptional performances during their limited screen-time.

Despite thinking he could circumvent this responsibility, Hal inevitably finds himself taking the throne as his fathers successor, faced with weighty decisions and a forced civility to which he was not previously accustomed. A major focus of the screenplay, written by Michôd and Edgerton, is the young king’s complicated relationship with the necessity of war. He vocalizes strong pacifists beliefs toward the beginning of the film, but when confronted with provocative adversaries, he finds himself more vulnerable to the same short-temper and uncertainty that he hated in his father.

Robert Pattinson gives an instantly unforgettable performance as the goading Dauphin of France, as the Battle of Agincourt looms on the horizon. The battle scene was one of the best depicted on feature film (Pardon for the dual Throne’s references, but the only comparable battle I’ve watched is the “Battle of the Bastards.”). The feeling of claustrophobia, muck sweat, and rage is so visceral, it is almost overwhelming.

Chalamet, despite a subdued and stoic facade, portrays small moments of indecision, fear, frustration and anticipation throughout the film with magnitude and conviction. However, the storyline permits one powerful moment of released emotion, giving rise to the other element that the script places as a central theme: “A king has no friends. Only foes and followers.” This is also a line said by the King’s closest companion.

Lily Rose-Depp arrives briefly, but effectively as Catherine de Valois, the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France, and the woman set to marry Henry V. She confronts the ignorance of his behavior, and the frenzied war, when peace could have been accessible. This conversation is utilized to suggest the feared possibility that Henry IV’s temperament could be unavoidable, and the continued violence under male leadership.

“The King” is beautifully shot, with broad landscapes, and the medieval era is depicted with more bleakness and rawness than typically shown on film. It is a haunting piece of cinema that foregoes much of the glamour of the monarchy, and dives into the weight of the responsibility on an emotional level.

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