What David Michôd's The King Teaches Us

If you’re a Netflix customer or a movie enthusiast, you might have seen or heard about David Michôd’s recent release, The King. If you don’t already know, the film centers around young King Henry V’s ascension to the throne and stars Hollywood sweetheart Timothée (Timmy) Chalamet as Henry V. But if you haven’t seen the film yet, be warned of the spoilers coming ahead!!

Let me start off by saying, no, I did not judge the film based on historical accuracy. If you review period films on their historical accuracy that’s cool, keep doing you, but this review will not be critical of such aspects. Instead, I will review some of the film’s most iconic lines from some of the best scenes.

We first need to talk about that scene between Henry and his brother, Thomas. This scene really introduces us to King Henry as he proposes to fight Henry “Hotspur” Percy, one-on-one, to save his brother’s life and the lives of many English men. 

While Henry could have let his brother and his army go at it with Percy and his army, he chooses to risk his own life to save others!!! My favorite lines from Henry in this scene are: “You’ve been recruited to our father’s madness, to wars that need not be fought. These men are not our enemies. Our father has made them thus” (2:01:49-2:01:40). I personally liked the fact that King Henry was portrayed as someone who wasn’t a killing machine and was brave enough to fight his own battles. This scene also parallels a later scene when King Henry once again proposes to fight in the place of his army. If only men could have settled their feuds without all the bloodshed!

Next up is the scene between King Henry and his sister Queen Philippa of Denmark. I must say that I loved the women in this film because they had a wisdom unequal to that of any of the men. The women in this film also spoke truthfully and were voices of reason among all the chaos and manipulation. Queen Phillipa only appears in two scenes, but when she speaks, she steals the show. My favorite lines from her are: “I do believe they wish you well. But I also see that they have their kingdoms behind their eyes,” (1:38:16-1:38:09) and “I have seen there, again and again, that no one ever speaks true, wholly true. Choose your steps wisely, dear brother” (1:38:16-1:38:09). I was surprised by how the women in this movie were depicted as strong and incredibly well-versed considering the time period in which they are placed, but I’m so glad they were portrayed in this light. It made the film enjoyable and it serves to empower women in this day and age.

Another amazing scene in the film takes place between King Henry and the loyal Falstaff. The entire scene makes us think of how difficult and lonely the life of a king must be since it suggests people in power only hold superficial and shallow relationships with others. Falstaff’s iconic lines in this scene are, “A king has no friends. A king has only followers and foe” (1:18:39-1:18:30). Falstaff’s character was one of my favorite characters because he was the only male character that seemed to be truthful and someone who genuinely cared for King Henry. As we like to say, “he a real one.” 

We can’t talk about this film without talking about Robert Pattinson’s ridiculous character, the Dauphin. The Dauphin of course had the funniest scenes in this movie as he worked so hard to rile King Henry and did it in the most hilarious ways. I seriously wonder how Chalamet didn’t break character and how he got through his scenes with Pattinson. The Dauphin’s best lines probably come when he performs hand gestures and tells King Henry, “I mean, no, your balls must be big, no? Giant balls. Giant balls… with a tiny cock [laughs hysterically]” (1:28:54-1:28:42). What makes this scene even funnier is Pattinson’s French accent. Many criticized his French accent, and while I’m not French myself nor do I speak the language, I must say he seems to do a good job. If you thought the accent was bad, hopefully you found Pattinson’s performance amusing. My second favorite line from the Dauphin is, "please speak English. I enjoy to speak English. It is simple... and ugly" (44:59-44:48). Not only are these lines funny because the Dauphin is completely savage for saying this in front of King Henry and his men, but in real life, Pattinson is English and Chalamet is French-American. 

Like I said before, the women in this film are badass. Another strong female character in this movie is Catherine of Valois, daughter of King Charles VI of France. As we learn by the end of the film, Henry is to marry Catherine after King Charles gifts her to him. Of course, it’s messed up how women were just given over to men, but if the real Catherine was anything like the Catherine from this movie, then she was ahead of her time. My favorite lines from her are, ”I will not submit to you. You must earn my respect,” (20:09-201:05) and “All monarchy is illegitimate” (18:01-18:00). I loved how she saw through King Henry and told him straight up what she thought of him. The fact that a woman makes King Henry realize who he is and the colossal mistake he’s committed is also amazing since it emphasizes the importance of speaking our truth even when others want to keep our voices quiet. Catherine, like the rest of the female characters, was spitting straight facts. 

Perhaps what the character of William Gascoigne, Chief Justice of England during this period, will be most remembered for in this movie is for his manipulation of King Henry and for all the times he says “my liege” in that whispery voice of his. In the last scene between him and King Henry, William says, “This is how peace is forged. It is forged in victory” (11:50-11:43). Of course, war and victory were not necessary to achieve peace in England. At the end, we can’t help but hate William for deceiving King Henry into waging war and causing the deaths of too many men. We also don’t feel bad when King Henry kills him. This scene becomes a moment of revelation for both men as William tries to justify himself by telling King Henry he gave him what he wanted. It makes us wonder if people in power fail because of the greedy and selfish individuals they have around them, and it makes us question the difficulties of being a leader. This might go without saying, but don’t go manipulating people in power for your own personal gains! You could end up like William...

I have saved the best for last. The most memorable quotes in this film come from King Henry’s speech before the battle of Agincourt. If we ever wondered what leaders say to their men to get them to fight the most violent and deadly wars, this speech definitely gave us an idea. 

“You expect of me a speech? I have only one to give, and it is the same one I'd give were we not standing on the brim of a battlefield. It is the same one I'd give were we to meet in the street by chance. I have only ever hoped for one thing... to see this kingdom united under this English crown! All men are born to die. We know it. We carry it with us always. If your day be today, so be it. Mine will be tomorrow. Or mine today and yours tomorrow. It matters not. What matters is that you know, in your hearts, that today you are that kingdom united. You are England. Each and everyone of you. England is you. Fight not for yourselves, fight for that space. Fill that space. Make it tissue. Make it mass. Make it impenetrable. Make it yours! Make it England! Make it England!” (42:31-41:21). 

I mean wow! If you're a nerd for words, this speech probably gave you goosebumps. Hearing Chalamet yell these words in front of so many extras totally hyped me up for the battle scene that followed. Perhaps what makes this speech so great is it's message that behind every leader and man of power is a wordsmith. Personally, I loved this speech so much I almost considered reading the Shakespeare play this film is based off. But alas, the film is a rewrite of the play, and watching movies is much easier than reading Shakespeare.

Besides the great dialogue and characters in The King, the film also has a fantastic score, beautiful cinematography, and a great cast that brings these historical characters to life for a 21st century audience. It teaches us of the burdens of leadership and power, the inescapable manipulation and deception, and the importance of remaining true to oneself and surrounding oneself with other truthful beings.Yes, I loved this movie and could go on about it, but I simply encourage everyone to continue thinking about what the movie teaches us and what it says about our world today.