EIFF 2021: The Justice of Bunny King

This Kiwi drama about an ex-convict mother trying to reconnect with her children is best when focused on the actors and not its platitude-filled script

Film Review by Rafaela Sales Ross | 24 Aug 2021
  • The Justice of Bunny King
Film title: The Justice of Bunny King
Director: Gaysorn Thavat
Starring: Essie Davis, Thomasin McKenzie

In The Justice of Bunny King, the titular character is a struggling mother of two trying to re-enter society after serving time in prison for murdering her abusive husband. Homeless and void of any promising prospects, Bunny (Essie Davis) strays further and further away from regaining the custody of her two children, surviving on court-appointed visits and crumbs of affection from her troubled niece Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie), as she dreams of a home where she can start anew. Life, however, insists on knocking her down.

Gaysorn Thavat’s film is at its best when it allows tenderness to feel organic instead of performative, and the traps of self-help quotes are replaced by contemplative quietness. When the camera lovingly rests on Davis – the crooks and crevasses of her drained face telling a story of their own – this modern tragedy feels ready to take off. Alas, these moments are far too scarce and suffocated by a script that is too preoccupied with the bumper-sticker quality of its dialogue. The few scenes shared between Davis and McKenzie follow the same unhelpful, self-serving pattern, a painful waste of two performances that – when isolated – are greatly competent, but sadly out of tune when intertwined.

“It’s not just about passing, it’s about being,” a charity worker says cheerily to Bunny while giving her a makeover. The same sentiment can be applied to The Justice of Bunny King, which – stuck in a limbo between nihilistic and feel-good – never fully manages to match the quality of its stars.

The Justice of Bunny King had its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival; UK release details TBA