Except for a slight misstep in the third act, this darkly funny evisceration of violent men and mob mentality hits all the right notes (pun intended). It is a strong debut by director Mirrah Foulkes.
Set in the vaguely 16th century town of Seaside, which is nowhere near the sea, brash and charismatic Punch (Damon Herriman) and plucky and talented Judy (Mia Wasikowska) are hoping to have their puppet show noticed by big city talent scouts. The show is perhaps a bit ‘punchy’ and ‘smashy’ and Punch’s pugilistic discontent bleeds over into his treatment of Judy.
Seaside’s inhabitants are an unruly lot, quick to turn suspicion into violent and self-righteous retribution. Although shown at first with Monty Python-esque humour – “Happy Stoning Day!” – it’s not long before we realise there is nothing funny about this kind of situation. It’s the kind of place where the white blokes have all the power and can demonise anyone they choose. Sound familiar?
The setting, costume and characterisations work well and Wasikowska is a great choice for Judy; she’s like a kick ass Disney princess. Secondary characters are fairly two-dimensional but this fits with the Grimm’s fairytale feel of the film. There is some excellent baby and animal acting – special mention to Toby the dog and that perfectly placed python.
For me the key letdown was the third act resolution with a speech that felt clumsy and too modern. The very final scene also felt a bit neat but these are minor quibbles in an excellent debut feature.
Have you seen this film Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.