Movie Review: “Bunny King’s Justice”

Greetings again from the dark. Most of us are quick to judge others. Often too fast. This superb (and dark) feature debut from writer-director Gaysorn Thavat reminds us that our initial judgments might just be an easy “exit” for us so that we can move on, oblivious to the struggles of others. There is an observational commentary here on what it means for a parent to love their children so deeply, for someone to believe in themselves with all their heart, and for the pain an institution can cause under excuse to do the right thing.

Essie Davis (THE BABADOOK, 2014) delivers a fierce and authentic performance as Bunny, much stronger than first thought. Is she more determined or desperate? We are not sure. She is also sometimes very intelligent, although she is sometimes unable to control her emotions. Bunny is focused on getting a place to live so that social services can allow her children to live with her. Currently, she is only allowed supervised visits and we love them intensely. Shannon (Amelia Baynes) is a disabled 5-year-old who loves her back, while Reuben (Angus Stevens) is an angry and frustrated 14-year-old who just wants a “normal” life that doesn’t involve foster homes.

Bunny is perpetual motion. She describes herself as a freelancer, spending days as a “Squeegee Bandit” cleaning windshields at red lights for change. She keeps this change in a soda bottle that she keeps in the linen closet at her sister’s house. This is where she cleans the house, cooks dinner, does the laundry, and watches the kids, all to falling asleep on the couch. Her sister Grace (Toni Potter) is a night shift nurse whose husband Bevan (Errol Shand) is a d-bag in many ways. In fact, Bevan is at the center of an incident with Bunny’s niece, Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie, JOJO RABBIT, 2019; LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, 2021) that goes right to the heart of Bunny’s character. We see how she reacts and begin to understand how she got to this particular lot in life.

Thavat co-writers Sophie Henderson (BABY DONE, 2020) and Gregory King center much of Bunny’s actions around the birthday bash she promised her daughter Shannon for her upcoming birthday bash. Is Bunny fit to be a mother? Most of the time, we think she devotes every waking moment to reuniting with her children. However, at her worst moments, she lashes out and shows poor judgment, leaving us and social services with serious doubts. The past is brilliantly unveiled and never lingers because Bunny wakes up each morning optimistic about what lies ahead. There’s a terrific sequence involving her attire, and Ms. Davis just nails the change in tone. His is an award-worthy performance, if only enough people will see the movie (which is doubtful). This New Zealand production expertly sets the stage with 4 Non Blondes “What’s Up” and then ends with a different version by Willa Amai.

Released in theaters September 23, 2022

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