‘The King’: Despite Timothée Chalamet's acting, this coming-of-age film is rushed leaving audiences in the dark before abrupt events
‘The King’, aside from one claustrophobic war scene reminiscent of the ‘Game of Thrones’ episode ‘Battle of the Bastards’, is a fairly dull affair. Loosely adapted from Shakespearean plays, the film is a great excuse for Chalamet to exude brooding silences
This review contains spoilers
Netflix’s new period drama, ‘The King’ is a grey-toned account of how a partying, ale-drinking, young lad is suddenly forced to take up the responsibility of England. Timothée Chalamet, who plays the role of Prince Hal -- later King Henry V -- is a fantastic choice for the role, and perhaps, one of the few things that make the film work.
‘The King’, aside from one claustrophobic war scene reminiscent of the ‘Game of Thrones’ episode ‘Battle of the Bastards’, is a fairly dull affair. Loosely adapted from the Shakespearean plays 'Henry IV, Part 1’, ‘Henry IV, Part 2’, and ‘Henry V’, the film is a great excuse for Chalamet to exude brooding silences.
He gazes with the quiet desperation of a man despite a storm raging inside and has to remain stoic and calm. But is that enough to make the work float? Not really.
There are a few scenes that work really well. When Hal’s father, Henry IV, is dying, Chalamet’s indifference and anger give you goosebumps. Another scene where Catherine (Lily-Rose Depp), his wife-to-be, confronts him about his motives behind invading France, Chalamet’s frustration is a thing of beauty.
But for most of the film, things aren’t allowed to marinate. They just happen. Like how a boozing scum of a boy suddenly turns into a great military strategist and ruler.
Australian filmmaker David Michôd’s coming-of-age film ultimately fails to impress because one, a young monarch facing adversities no longer works in a post-'Game of Thrones' world. And two, even with war, gore, betrayal and treachery, the film firmly lacks in substance.
Throughout the film, even as Hal tries to prove to everyone and himself he is not his father’s son, we keep on seeing evidence to the contrary. And even though he is forced to act in a certain way because of the situations at hand, one has a hard time telling what is going on inside his head.
The downside of being that good at portraying stoicism is that the audience is left grappling with their own theories -- something that doesn’t make the case for the King, the filmmaker hopes. For most of the film, we have to take the filmmaker’s words and Chalamet’s facial expressions on the emotions being channeled.
Nothing is explained particularly well; neither his disdain towards his father nor the motives of the ever-scheming noblemen. We just know they are scheming because Hal’s sister Phillipa (Thomasin McKenzie) tells us they are.
Even when William Gascoigne (Sean Harris) explains to Henry V why he orchestrated the events that led to the Battle of Agincourt -- supposedly to unite the kingdoms and usher in peace -- the reasoning is less than satisfactory.
The war scene too, for the most part, feels shoddily choreographed. Swords clumsily hitting suits of armor gets boring after the first 60 seconds. One could forgive the story’s historical inaccuracies, for it is a movie made to entertain rather than educate.
But when the primary objective fails, these little nitpicked facts suddenly adds to the mountain of complaints about with the film. Perhaps a better use of time and resources would have been to make a coming-of-age drama where 15th century Europe was not of consequence and where the character grew over time; not suddenly, just because the script demanded it.
‘The King’ is available for streaming on Netflix.