New Zealand film is on a roll right now, and over the past 18 months audiences have been delivered some incredible pieces of cinema that have set both our minds and hearts on fire. Now audiences can prepare to meet the unstoppable character of Bunny King in The Justice Of Bunny King and this is a film that is certain to touch your heart.
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.
Directed by Gaysorn Thavat with a screenplay by Sophie Henderson, The Justice Of Bunny King is a poignant and intriguing character study of a woman who has slipped through the cracks and who has been let down by society. She’s a character and a person that contemporary society refuses to see, and now her story is told for all. Essie Davis’s Bunny King is not a true to life character, but she is representative of many New Zealanders who have fallen by the wayside and who have been left at tremendous odds as to how to pull themselves back up. Together Thavat, Henderson and their team tell a strong character driven narrative of one woman’s desperate desire to reunite with her children and the results are spellbinding.
Stepping up to take on the role of Bunny King is Australian actress Essie Davis and she proves again why she is one of the best actresses working today. Best known as the delightful Miss Fisher, Davis has also stunned in recent works including The True History of the Kelly Gang and Babyteeth, and her role as Bunny King is another stellar dramatic performance that you can’t look away from. Davis makes Bunny real. This is a woman right from the start who has the world up against her, and she’s very much in a dark, seemingly bottomless pit that she cannot escape from. Her life has not been a nice one, but even with so much hardship around her she’s still a rather happy-go-lucky character and who can see the brighter side of life.
If there’s an anchor to Bunny’s character it’s her love for her children, and a desperate desire to be with them, and specifically to celebrate her youngest daughter’s birthday. Davis commitment to Bunny is absolute and she creates a fully rendered, 360 portrait of a character who can go from smiley and happy-go-lucky to angry and aggressive in an instant. Bunny is a complicated character and Davis hides nothing back in her performance and you see a woman who is struggling the whole way through. Davis’ performance is sure to pull on your heartstrings and she definitely causes a reaction to you as an audience member, and you’re fundamentally aware that this is an actress at the top of her game.
Joining Davis in The Justice of Bunny King is rising Kiwi sensation Thomasin McKenzie as Bunny’s wayward niece Tonyah and it’s a pairing that just works. In the character of Tonyah we see a portrait of what a younger Bunny may have been like, and as she deals with her own trials of neglect and abuse and the dangers that come with it, Bunny draws Tonyah in and desires to help her escape a traumatic home life. McKenzie is excellent in her performance, and it’s once again a very raw portrayal from a young actress who is causing audiences to sit up and take notice.
As a movie-going experience, your emotions are pulled in every direction with The Justice of Bunny King. This film is very much a heavy drama, and it tells an important and socially charged story, but Thavat is aware of this and she also injects the film with plenty of light-comedy and hysterical moments to not only break up the drama of the film but to showcase a portrait of this character. While Bunny does face many obstacles, at all times you feel that she is most definitely an optimist who sees the world as ‘the glass half full’, and this use of comedy and the unexpected is very useful in bringing this to life.
The Justice of Bunny King is a film that is a dramatic, funny and thoughtful portrait of the people we often don’t see. It’s a film that makes you think and which is delivered to the big screen with enormous empathy. It’s also a film that will truly touch your heart and audiences who are fortunate enough to witness it will be very moved by the story it tells.
Image: MadMan Films