Review by Sean Boelman
Taking its name (almost) from the classic puppet show, Judy & Punch is an enjoyably anachronistic dark comedy. Featuring some wonderful performances and a script that is wholly unexpected, the unabashedly quirky nature of the film may not appeal to everyone but will ensure that this gains the cult following it deserves.
The movie follows a puppeteer and his wife as they are stricken with tragedy, forcing them both down paths of revenge and redemption. It’s a unique (and certainly more mature) twist on a familiar storyline, with the comedic mischief of the typically slapstick-oriented show being turned into something more sinister and hilarious.
While it does admittedly take the film a bit of time to get moving, it rockets off around the thirty minute mark and never lets up from there. The sense of humor may be off-putting to some, a blend of the juvenile (slapstick) and the mature (satire), but writer-director Mirrah Foulkes is able to find a mostly satisfying balance between the two.
The most interesting parts of the movie are those which explore the effects that the spotlight has on the characters. Although these moments are pretty much confined to the final third of the movie, they are among the moments that will stick with viewers for the longest time after the credits roll (especially that powerful final shot).
And even though the title of the film implies the female lead will be the more dominant force in the story, it is the male protagonist’s arc that is more interesting here. Although it is understandable why the story headed in the direction in which it did, it would have been even more unexpected had they been a bit more balanced.
Mia Wasikowska and Damion Herriman both do an excellent job in their leading roles. Wasikowska has proven herself to be one of the most exciting actresses working in independent film today, with a talent for unorthodox characters that are charming but go against the grain. Herriman gives a devilishly hilarious turn of his own, showing that he is deserving of more chances at being the lead.
Foulkes also brings an undeniably effective sense of style to the movie. The cinematography and production design both do an excellent job of transporting the viewer back into the period in which the film is set, but the soundtrack, tinged with rock, brilliantly reinforces the script’s more modern take on the themes.
Judy & Punch is a lot more fun and insightful than it may initially seem on paper. It’s the adult-oriented puppet movie audiences have been clamoring for for years now, just maybe not in the form that they expected.
Judy & Punch hits VOD on June 5.