The Justice of Bunny King (2021)

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Damn you, Gaysorn Thavat, you made me cry. I thought this might be a run-of-the-mill feel-good drama about a feisty woman fighting the system but it was so much more.

There is no sign of Phryne Fisher in Essie Davis’s portrayal of ex-con Bunny King. Bunny’s kids have been put into foster care after she served time for killing their father – he permanently injured their daughter Shannon (Amelie Baynes). She’s trying to follow the rules of children’s services but it seems a vicious cycle for people like her. She can’t get her kids until she has a home, she can’t get a home without a job, she can’t see her kids without permission and appointments and supervision organised by an overloaded system. And no one seems to care. Sleeping on her sister’s couch, she witnesses something that is the catalyst for her niece Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie) to join her on the road.

There is nothing neat or easy about Bunny’s situation and Thavat does a great job at building a narrative that is suspenseful and unpredictable and always feels authentic. Davis is superb as she balances Bunny’s pugnacious obstinacy with her obvious good-heartedness and relentless optimism. It would be easy to turn her into a caricature but Thavat and Davis give her a depth and complexity that challenges prejudice and evokes empathy. It reminded me of all that was great about the The Florida Project (2017).

I wasn’t sure how the story was going to resolve – for a while it seems like nothing good will ever happen for Bunny – and it has some welcome elements of warmth and sentimentality without losing the gritty reality of its story arc. It might even make you cry.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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