VOD film review: The Justice of Bunny King
Ivan Radford | On 11, Feb 2022
Director: Gaysorn Thavat
Cast: Essie Davis, Thomasin McKenzie
From The Babadook and Babyteeth to True History of the Kelly Gang and even Mindhorn, Essie Davis has been on one heck of run in recent years, and that’s before you get into her work in TV’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In The Justice of Bunny King, she gets a deserving showcase to pour her heart into, and the result is a phenomenally moving drama.
Davis plays Bunny King, a mother of two who no longer sees her kids, after a troubled past took them away from her. We join her as she’s without a home, making a living washing car windscreens by the motorway while crashing in her brother’s garage. Her daughter, Shannon, and her son, Reuben, are living safely and happily elsewhere, and Bunny is looking to take them back under her wing. Every time she gets one step closer to a reunion, though, they’re pulled further apart.
Written by Sophie Henderson, who recently penned the delightful rom-com Baby Done, the film powerfully captures the pain and frustration of a single mother battling the impersonal wall of New Zealand social services and the intangibility of home ownership. As things come to a head, thanks to revelations elsewhere in the family and a string of poor decisions by Bunny, the film deftly switches gear into a tense, tragic confrontation.
Making a superb, promising debut, director Gaysorn Thavat controls the shifting tone with remarkable confidence, leaning into the energy of his leading lady and conveying the humour that she uses to deal with life with the help of some judicious needle-drops. Thomas McKenzie’s performance as Bunny’s niece is beautifully understated, bringing natural chemistry to a story filled with authentic, lived-in relationships.
McKenzie crucially provides the contrast needed for Bunny King to make sense: Essie Davis shines as the complicated, contradictory figure, delivering an unflinching, no-holds-barred tour de force. In Davis’ hands, Bunny’s heart-wrenchingly desperate mother is able to be at once self-defeating, fiercely loyal, determined in her pursuit of justice, instinctively defensive and always hopeful, even to the point of delusion. “You’re a fighter,” someone says to her late on. She grins and nods back. You’re never sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s undoubtedly the way she has to be.
This review was originally published during the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival.