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76th Venice Film Festival: The King Movie Review

Timothée Chalamet in The King

Actor Timothée Chalamet stars in director David Michôd’s historical drama, ‘The King.’

Title: The King

Director: David Michôd 

Cast: Timothy Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Tom Glynn-Carney, Lily-Rose Depp, Thomasin McKenzie, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn.

Shakespeare fanatics are going to be enchanted by The King, which, under the direction of David Michôd, presents the coming-of-age story of Henry V — one of England’s most renowned monarchs who famously conquered the French at the Battle of Agincourt, and was glorified in numerous plays by the Bard.

Hal (Timothée Chalamet) is a recalcitrant prince and reluctant heir to the British throne. However, when his father dies, he is crowned King Henry V and is forced to embrace the life he had previously tried to escape. The young king must navigate the palace politics, chaos and war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life — including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the ageing alcoholic knight, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton). 

The notorious historical figure of Henry V has hit the silver screen in various film adaptations, but in this case, the screenplay, written by Michôd and Edgerton, explores themes that resonate with the contemporary world. This period piece examines the pitfalls of power, the cyclical brutality of war, and how the dangerous vanities of men reverberate through generations to come.

To bring the complex narrative to life on screen, prestigious partners came onboard — Netflix, Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, Yoki, Inc., and Blue-Tongue Films — as well as a remarkable cast lead by Timothée Chalamet (in the titular role), Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp. 

Timothée Chalamet is regal and valiant in the role of Hal and organically portrays the evolution of the ingenue and frivolous youngster who becomes a disillusioned and combative monarch. He does this with glorious introspection, as he interiorises the emotional spectrum that King Henry traverses. There is great chemistry between Chalamet and Edgerton. The latter brings to life his advisor and friend, John Falstaff, with grit and earnest. Lily-Rose Depp appears later in the story, but she portrays with utmost sophistication and magnetism Catherine de Valois, the sister of the Dauphin (played by Robert Pattinson), who proves a pivotal character in the story. 

The themes in the film very much reverberate modern politics, where Shakespeare’s plays and history serve as mere artistic tools to bring a new angle to the role of rulers. The movie is emblematic in portraying how power goes to people’s heads, as well as the way it can isolate and give a sense of paranoia. Ultimately, the dynamics of warfare seem to echo the Latin adage Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war).

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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Director David Michôd's biographical drama, 'The King'
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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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