“THE KING,” while presenting factual events and figures, is a film that can be regarded as being inaccurate in some areas when it comes to history. The film is based on the “Henriad,” a series of what is known as William Shakespeare’s History Plays. “The King” is one of many, many period films that focus on the long, bloody rule of the institution that we have to regard as the British Monarchy. Despite our post-colonial resentment pertaining to the monarchy, such period films draw us in again and again.This is simply because it is human nature to want a peek into the lives of rulers, so we can see their loves and excesses, their torment and griefs, their treason, their joys, and their inevitable fall from power on account of several common factors: these include greed, lust, ambition, or hubris. From “The Lion in Winter” to “The Tudors” and “Reign,” from “The Other Boleyn Girl” to “Belle” and “The Favourite,” there are too many of such films to choose from. “The King” tries to cater to the current generation of audience-members by casting young, handsome stars, such as Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson in the lead roles; although both of them are very good, especially Chalamet, the casting is not enough to hide the few flaws that make themselves known to the viewer.
The major problem that I have with the story pertains to characterisation. Henry V (Chalamet) is presented as a wayward prince, initially, a drinker and whoremonger, who stays away from court.This is partly because of his failed relationship with his probably insane, war-loving father, King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn), before transitioning, upon made king after the death of his father, into a morally upright, peaceful man who seeks to do all that is right. There is, of course, nothing wrong with such a transition. Characters can change. The problem has to do with how the change comes about and the presentation of the change in a visual medium such as film. In “The King,” Henry V’s sudden desire to be ‘good’ seems abrupt, out of character, and too immediate to be wholly accepted. Thankfully, this is the film’s only major flaw, apart from that feeling of the film needing a bit more tension in the scenes that required them.
Nevertheless, the storyline eventually finds its way, offering up to the audience strong depictions of its characters, a hero to root for, a villain to hate, and a surprise in the ending that functions as more of a buzz than a bang. Chalamet is in very fine form as the lead character – handsome, lithe, and delivering a strong use of voice and athleticism that is a big departure from his previous roles, in films such as “Lady Bird” and “Call Me by Your Name.” Without a doubt, he is going to go on to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Robert Pattinson has come a long way since his “Twilight” days. His performance as the evil Dauphine is gleefully off-kilter, and he makes for a fitting opposite to Henry V’s morally upright hero. Joel Edgerton seems to be playing two different roles – even though he essays Falstaff, a friend and mentor to Henry V – in the way his character, like Henry V’s, dramatically changes, without enough buildup and fluid transition, from a loveable drunk to a strategic warrior. The two depictions of the character, while individual, are individually well executed. Ben Mendelsohn, as with all of his other roles, delivers extremely good acting as Henry IV. The film’s biggest surprise for me exists in the form of Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of Johnny Depp) who plays Catherine, the French princess who later becomes wife to Henry V. Her character’s feminine energy is a burst of freshness in what can be regarded as a very ‘masculine’ film, and she brings with her brief role, much body, vitality and charm in her keen-eyed presentation of a role that in another actress’ hand might end being even slimmer than the love interest of the main character. Depp is truly tremendous in a small role, with a very convincing French accent. She is definitely a rising star to keep an eye on.
Overall, the film was satisfactory, presenting a necessary addition to the works of Shakespeare that have been adapted for the screen.This it does, while also offering the audience another chance to see luminous performances from Hollywood’s new generation of superstars in the making. I’m now more eager than ever to see Chalamet in the “Dune” adaptation, Pattinson in “The Lighthouse” and Lily-Rose Depp in “Dreamland.” They remind me that I have officially reached a point in my life where the actors that I have known and loved for a very long time are no longer ‘young’ enough to be considered the future of the movie industry as they were for several years. Nevertheless, I have much faith in this new generation and I can’t wait to see what they will bring to our screens in the near future.