Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, Beautiful Boy) proves once again that he truly is the real deal as he stars as a young King Henry V in David Michôd’s new shakespearean drama The King. Co-written by Michôd’s in collaboration with actor-turned-writer Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty, Loving, It Comes at Night), the film also features a brilliant performance by Edgerton as Sir John Falstaff, and sadly a less than perfect turn courtesy of the usually brilliant Robert Pattinson.
When we first meet him, Hal (Chalamet) has been living precariously away from the palace ever since cutting all ties with his tyrannical father King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn). With only his trustee friend Flstaff, a brave soldier for the King, to look over him, Hal has been on a destructive path which could cost him everything, including his friendship with Fastaff.
Hal’s life is thrown into a tailspin when both his brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) who was expected to succeed to the throne, and his father die within days of each other forcing him to step ups to his duties. Soon, Hal finds himself navigating thorny political and social issues which will eventually lead him to a deadly battle against France and its wayward prince, The Dauphin (Robert Pattinson).
David Michôd offers a visually stunning and robustly acted production which puts a whole new spin on this much loved Shakespearian and historical story. Elevated by Edgerton’s brilliant writing and a narrative which keeps you hooked from the get go, the film manages to go further by offering something new and exciting throughout.
Chalamet is genuinely and unreservedly mesmerising in a role which could have easily been too big for such a young performer were it not for his incredible screen presence and undeniable talent. Offering the young king as someone who has to learn to trust his instincts to lead his country, Chalamet delivers every line as if his own life depended on it, and manages to make you believe in his character’s growth from young philandering prince, to someone who is to be feared by those who dared to underestimate him.
For his part, and through no fault of his own, Pattinson is sadly hugely miscast in the Dauphin part. His fake French accent raised more than a few laughs at the screening I attended, and from the sounds of it, has been doing the same thing to festival audiences over the last few weeks. The problem isn’t that Pattinson isn’t good in this role, the problem is that in the pursuit of wanting a big name in their movie, the producers have failed to consider that any French actor the same age would have made a much better, and more believable Dauphin. Elsewhere, Lily Rose Depp gives an impressive turn as Catherine of Valois, Hal’s young French bride, While Edgerton is truly dazzling as Folstaf, a role he
Overall, The King offers a brave and balsy new adaptation which might not be perfect, but which still manages to be hugely watchable and undeniably engaging.