Vaila’s View: ‘The King’ is a life-like renaissance portrait of power and morality

Illustration by Sammy Newman

Vaila DeYoung, Contributing Writer

The internet’s beloved up-and-coming American actor Timothée Chalamet marked his first official return to film in 2019 with David Michôd’s Shakespearean action-drama, “The King.” Strong performances paired with gorgeous lighting and cinematography make “The King” feel like a Renaissance painting come to life.  

The film is distributed by Netflix, which continually proves its worth as a renowned studio capable of producing well-directed, big-budget original movies. 

“The King” was initially meant to be Chalamet’s second film of the year. However, due to controversy around director Woody Allen, his latest 2019 film also starring Chalamet, “A Rainy Day in New York” was halted by its distributor, Amazon Studios. The film had a limited release in July 2019 in Poland, but was later dropped by Amazon, returning distribution rights back to Allen. 

“The King” stars Chalamet as Hal, a drunken, good natured prince who ascends the throne as the heir to England following his father’s death. As the new king, Henry V of England surrounds himself with loyal friends and followers, fighting to undo the wrongs of his father’s reign. 

“Overall, the film was held together by talented actors, and the visuals were a beautiful contrast to the grim tone of the film.” — Vaila DeYoung

The film features its strong points through convincing characterizations of historical figures. The voice work and accents could use a little bit of tightening, but overall Michôd manages to utilize contemporary actors as believable 15th century noblemen.   

Along with Chalamet, other outstanding performances include Robert Pattinson’s exaggerated yet brief role as Louis, Dauphin of France, and co-writer and producer Joel Edgerton as Sir John Falstaff, Hal’s loyal drinking buddy. Lily-Rose Depp as Catherine de Valois was an integral role and plot device for Hal’s character development, and I wish she were given more to work with in this film. The importance of her character was far greater than what little screen time she had, but her performance was captivating and necessary nonetheless. 

The film is based off the Shakespearean history plays, titled “Henry IV,” with parts one and two, and “Henry V.” The majority of the film’s 2-hour-and-20-minute runtime is based off the plot of “Henry V,” focusing heavily on the events that lead to the Battle of Agincourt.

Without much knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, one might find it difficult to follow the narrative of the film. Although much of the play is condensed already, long dialogue sequences drag out the film. 

The heart of the film tells a cautionary tale of the struggle between power and morality, but fails to dig deeper into the emotional toil that such conflict might cause.

The immaculate lighting and cinematography help to carry this film to the time period in which it takes place, from the subtle glow of the sunset, to more Rembrandt-style lighting with extremely dark shadows and soft contrasting highlights. Every shot featured incredible composition, leading visually stunning collections of imagery. 

Overall, the film was held together by talented actors, and the visuals were a beautiful contrast to the grim tone of the film. 

However, “The King” fails to achieve balance between dialogue-driven scenes, and contemplative moments to further show emotional shifts. This allows us to believe that it’s boring or slow, because the bulk of the film is quiet conversations between the main characters. For a film that includes plenty of dialogue, we gain little from the interactions.  


Rating: 3/5


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