He’s a fashion king, king of the internet, and now Timothée Chalamet is King Henry in David Michôd’s adaptation of the Shakespeare Henriad! This film is not a faithful adaptation of the plays, yet it still speaks to the larger message about men in power.
Hal, a rebellious prince with no desire to rule, finds himself the King after his father’s death. While he comes off as fairly calm and reasonable at the start, the men around him and alleged threats from abroad start to make Henry protective of his ego. The greatest threat to Henry’s power are the French. At the start of his reign, Henry receives many gifts from foreign monarchs. He graciously gives the gifts away to various people who support him, but when the French send him a ball, the men around Hal tell him that it is a direct threat to his power. Thus, England starts a war with France and the viewers watch Hal descend deeper and deeper into the trap of violence.
While there is much to admire about this film (Chalamet’s performance, Nicholas Britell’s amazing score), Robert Pattinson’s French accent steals the show. We first meet the Dauphin (Pattinson) when Hal’s troops arrive in France. After sending warnings of invasion, the dauphin decides to speak straight to King Henry himself. Much to my surprise, Robert Pattinson comes in full armor, wavy blond hair, and a French accent so bizarre it’s almost good? Pattinson’s role comes in the form of comedic relief from a depressing dark and muddy tale of war. The dauphin jokingly requests him and Hal speak in English because it is ugly and straightforward. While the dauphin’s role amounts to an odd comedic break, it plays into century old tropes about the relationship between England and France. It is hard to tell whether Pattinson’s comedic take on the dauphin was his plan or Michôd’s, but it stands out as the most unique performance in the film and a reminder of how ridiculously serious the men guiding Henry are.
The King is a visually stunning drama that proves Chalamet a force to be reckoned with regardless of the mediocrity of the film itself. He is great in the action sequences, funny, charming, and the sad boy we’ve all come to know and love. But it’s Robert Pattinson’s French accent that is dividing audiences and taking the spotlight. Looks like Henry lost the accent battle, but won the war.