101 Mins(3 ½ out of 5)
Reviewed by: Sam Hollis
The Justice of Bunny King is not always mesmerising, but its characters certainly are. Though its story loses steam, saved by a left-field surprise of a third act, its messages ring true, and I wager most will leave the theatre with a slightly altered perspective.
Bunny King (Essie Davis) is a squeegee bandit with a goal: to save enough money to regain custody and house her two kids. After promising her youngest a birthday party during a visit, Bunny will do anything to keep her word, despite having no job, no home, and no help from social services. Things are only complicated further when her niece Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie) reaches out for help.
The film rides or dies on the shoulders of Bunny, an undoubtedly demanding role. She must at once be warm and compassionate, frustrated and cool, but Davis refuses to let her become superficial. Bunny is imperfect, with shades of light and dark. She makes mistakes, often lashing out at those who wrong her in immature ways. But these elements boil down to a supremely human character, one who we’ve all encountered and maybe now feel we can relate to a little more.
Front to back, the cast make the story feel visceral. Even minor characters, such as Government Family Services caseworker Trish (Tanea Heke), make an impact. This is largely aided by Gaysorn Thavat’s focused direction and Sophie Henderson’s concise screenplay.
It’s clear that the collaborators felt a kinship towards Bunny, but at times the story she is in runs out of gas. The film takes an unexpected turn in the final act, which will work for some and alienate others. For me, it worked, bringing scope, suspense, and surprise to a tale I thought had tapped out.
Bunny and Tonyah struggle to be heard, supported, and empathised with, feelings we’ve all had. The film’s anti-patriarchy message is one many will raise a fist to, but I foresee The Justice of Bunny King being a love-it-or-hate-it experience for most.