On Thursday 3rd October I was lucky enough to go see a screening of The King at the London Film Festival which is hosted annually by the British Film Institute.
Whilst it wasn’t the first showing in the UK, it was the second and was held on the same night, meaning that all the actors and producers/directors that were there for the premiere attended the viewing. Timothée Chalamet, the absolute star, was there in a nice sparkly hoodie along with his co-stars of Joel Edgerton, Tom Glynn-Carney, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily Rose-Depp and Thomasin McKenzie. The director, David Michôd, and producers Dede Gardner, Liz Watts, Jeremy Kleiner and were also in attendance. Ben Mendelsohn came on absolutely smashed and made some really funny jokes, most likely because he had been drinking before and after the premiere, the evidence being that he brought a bottle onto stage (a water bottle but still fairly incriminating).
Most of the comments from the stars were based on either working with David or Timothée, however Lily and Thomasin also spoke about the role of women in the film and how they thought women had been given significant value in that they impacted the choices and opinions of Hal, the main character, whilst still staying true to the time period.
The King follows the ascension to the throne of Hal, King Henry V, from before his father’s death to his return to England after the battle of Agincourt. What I liked about the storyline was that as it only spanned around three years it was able to achieve a better depth in plot and character development, in addition to focusing on the relationships and tensions between characters. I much preferred this compared to films that try to capture a monarch’s whole reign and have to sacrifice these aspects (but I do understand that often that’s done in order to achieve different aims). The shorter timeline also meant that the film felt more person to the character of Hal, Henry V, and I enjoyed Chalamet’s portrayal of him in that you could see the turmoil and anxiety that went along with all the decisions he made as King.
The costumes and sets of the film felt very true to the time period. Hal’s outfits in particular I liked as they reflected the drastic change in lifestyle and expectations he underwent. Whilst I don’t know a detailed historical account of Henry V’s monarchy, from what I do know the film seems as though it kept decently true to history, as well as to some of Shakespeare’s famous play. If you’re looking for a serious documentary or Shakespearean adaptation, then The King may not be for you, however if you’re in want of a historical drama purely for entertainment purposes, I think it certainly fulfils that description.
As I mentioned before, the directors went into the movie wanting a stronger female representation than typically achieved and I felt as though they effectively achieved this. The two female characters of significance were Philippa of England, Hal’s sister, and Catherine of Valois, his wife. Whilst they both only had a couple lines each (reflecting the attempt to still stay true to the time period), their influence on Hal was clear as he appeared to trust them a lot more than the male characters in the film, most likely due to friction between them due to Hal’s rogue past.
Whilst The King is serious in tone for the most part, there were elements of humour which myself and the rest of the audience very much appreciated. These were present mainly during interactions between Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton) and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Andrew Havill) and the Daulphin (Robert Pattinson).
All in all I really enjoyed watching The King, almost to a surprising degree as I don’t tend to watch a lot of historical/period dramas. The acting, especially Chalamet’s, I thought was good and the varied cast added contrasting dynamics between characters.
The King is being released on Netflix on 1st November 2019 – so make sure to catch it then!