Review by Camden Ferrell
The Justice of Bunny King is a drama film that had its premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and has played several festivals leading up to its release in theaters and on demand. This movie also marks the feature directorial debut of Gaysorn Thavat with a screenplay by Sophie Henderson who most recently wrote the delightful comedy Baby Done. Even though this movie is made with the best intentions and features a great leading performance, it loses its way in its final act which ultimately leads this movie to being decent but not great.
Bunny King is a woman with a sketchy past that led to her losing custody of her two children. A diamond in the rough, she works at traffic lights, cleaning people’s windshields as she tries to make money to get her life back on track. She is trying to get custody of her kids back, but she finds navigating the world as someone in her situation and dealing with child services are obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Accompanied by her niece, Bunny embarks on a journey to confront the system that keeps her children away. This story has a strong emotional core with a flawed yet empathetic character that we can root for as an audience.
The script does a decent enough job at establishing its characters and making them relatable. Bunny may be a bit eccentric, but the movie doesn’t lose sight of her human qualities and traits. However, it does have a difficult time with crafting compelling and engaging dialogue outside of its few confrontational moments. This makes it difficult to be fully invested in her journey and the people who help or deter her along the way.
Essie Davis gives a great lead performance as Bunny which brings a lot of life to the character while making up for some of its shortcomings. She knows how to play this flawed character in a way that is sad yet elicits sympathy from its audience. The character has made mistakes and does impulsively inappropriate things, but we know her heart is in the right place. She is joined by Thomasin McKenzie who plays her niece, and she is quite forgettable in this role and doesn’t really do much to elevate the scenes she is in.
The biggest flaw of the movie is the narrative leaps it makes in its final act. It no longer is an intimate and frustrating portrait of a mother in crisis; it evolves into something that feels beyond its reach. The final act might work with a different movie with higher stakes, but it feels out of place in a movie like this. Ultimately, the movie trades in its intimate stakes and heartbreaking conflict in exchange for some high stakes drama that don’t fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.
The Justice of Bunny King is an empathetic movie that is certainly made with the best of intentions, but it doesn’t always hit the mark in terms of execution. Essie Davis is great, and it has a few great moments, but as a whole, it doesn’t work as well as it could have.
The Justice of Bunny King is in theaters September 23 and on demand September 30.