the justice of bunny king
director: Gaysorn Thavat (debut)
starring: essie davis, thomasin mckenzie, erroll shand and ryan o'kane
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
A triumph over adversity tale about women fighting their way back from the bottom of society.
As a kid who watched his Mum grapple with elements of the ‘system’ and now as an independent advocate for people who are entrenched, shaped by or connected in some shape of form with that system I was slightly nervous about viewing this film. And the vast majority of this film I felt, from my experience, perfectly encapsulated the stories of those on the very margins of society but unfortunately it just didn’t quite land the ending. The Justice of Bunny King isn’t just a voice for the voiceless but a searing film that will bury deep under your skin and gnaw away at you for weeks to come.
Bunny King is a mother of two, a rough cut diamond with a sketchy past. While battling the system to reunite with her children, a confrontation leads her to take her niece Tonyah under her wing. With the world against her and Tonyah, Bunny’s battle has just begun.
The Justice of Bunny King isn’t easy viewing and nor should it be. There will be those who will critique the character of Bunny for seemingly not putting her kids first. But for me I saw a person who through a couple of unfortunate events, societal breakdown and a one size fits all, impersonal and sterile system is in the place that she is in. Although a different story and not as extreme as Bunny’s I could see glimpses of my Mum’s journey as she grappled with that system and also the lives of some of a lot of the people that I work with. It was perfectly accurate; heartbreakingly so.
The Justice of Bunny King portrays that system with such brutal accuracy that hopefully it inspires people with the means to do something about it. But Bunny King isn’t without its life affirming moments either from a Pacific Island family taking Bunny in and helping her out even when she uses them to Bunny and Tonyah, her niece, rocking out in a stolen car as they make their escape. They are beautiful moments that help remind us, the audience, of these characters ability to maintain a piece of their humanity despite their poverty and the trauma that they have suffered.
But the most conflicting part for me was the ending. I won’t spoil it at all but it just seemed with this stunning accurate detail, representation and voice given to those that are the forgotten people in our society that the ending kinda snuffed out. It never ends the way Bunny King ends for people in those positions. Once they’re in the system justice rarely visits their door. I felt that Bunny King would have carried more of a knockout punch if the film ended the way a lot of these stories do.
Essie Davis is magnificent as Bunny instilling in her a rawness, desperation but also a real humanity as well. Thomasin McKenzie shows why she's such an in demand talent with a performance that lights up every frame she appears in.
The Justice of Bunny King isn’t just a voice for the voiceless but a searing film that will bury deep under your skin and gnaw away at you for weeks to come.