THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING opens with Essie Davis standing on the side of the road, windscreen squeegee in hand. From the moment ‘What’s Up’ by 4 Non-Blondes started playing, I knew this was the sort of film that would tear my heart out of my chest.
And I knew it would make me cackle with laughter.
Sometimes things are so cliché, they transcend being an obvious choice, and begin to feel more like coming home.
That feeling isn’t going to last, by the way…
Essie Davis (The Babadook, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) plays the titular Bunny King. She’s perfection in this role. Bunny’s a highly intelligent, hard working, deeply caring woman. But somewhere along the way, her life went wrong. Now she’s trying to put it all back together.
She’s sleeping on her sister’s couch. She’s washing windows at the traffic lights for change. She’s become an expert at dealing with the bureaucracy of the support services. And she’s desperately trying to find a place to live, so she can get her two kids back.
Bunny’s story isn’t completely foreign to anyone who’s dealt with Centrelink long term.
Long term poverty is… a dull grind. It’s always making sensible decisions, and occasionally making a bad one. And then spending months or years trying to get back what that moment took from you.
Bunny is a fighter. She isn’t some sweet lamb, patiently suffering and being ‘one of the good ones’. She’s messy, and difficult. Not exactly a sympathetic victim, but certainly someone who needs some help.
Bunny has a strong sense of justice. Hence the title of the film. And she’s a born carer, protective of friends, family, and people she’s just met. But she reacts to injustice with rage. And while it’s often pretty well founded, it costs her dearly. Watching this film is half cheering her mad dashes to put things right. And half cringing with discomfort, as you see the long term impact of her short term reactions.
Sophie Henderson writes a script that is just perfectly grounded in New Zealand. The other window washers, and the young mum at the welfare office, remain so clear in my mind. The government support workers are less easy to tell apart, but that’s by design.
This is Gaysorn Thavat’s first time directing a feature length film. But she’s been working in film for over 25 years. She’s worked in a variety of technical and creative roles, across a wide range of film types. THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING shows off her incredible wealth of experience and talent. I cannot wait to see her next project.
Jojo Rabbit’s Thomasin McKenzie is magnificent as Tonyah, Bunny’s niece. As in her previous roles, she plays a teenager facing hard choices, but she never becomes melodramatic. And she knows when to add a little joy to the film. And Angus Stevens and Amelie Baynes, who play Bunny’s two children, steal every scene they’re in.
To me, THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING is a glorious film. It’s brave, confronting, and laugh-out-loud funny. Its pissed-off anti-heroine might not be to everyone’s taste. And some might say that the story is far-fetched.
But I found it captured the frustration a lot of us feel during this pandemic. Spending all morning on the phone to Centrelink, only to have the call drop out when it’s finally answered. All those forms, and never knowing if it’ll do any good. Wondering whether you’ll be able to pay your rent or phone bill. Wondering when things will go back to normal.
Also, THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING is a fun, woman-led revenge flick. And sometimes I just need one of those.
Rating: 7/10 – You can currently catch the film screening at Revelation Film Festival – click here.