Gaysorn Thavat has made her directorial debut with The Justice of Bunny King (2021) – and what an impact! From the casting and subsequent performances of Essie Davis and Thomasin McKenzie to the screenplay by Sophie Henderson, there are a variety of factors that really put this movie over the top. The Justice of Bunny King (2021) is an anxiety-inducing film that follows Bunny King (Davis) as she tries to be reunited with her children. She is earning money washing windshields and saving to get her own place while staying at her sister’s house. Things are looking good, until Bunny witnesses something she just can’t ignore, which sends her desperately trying to clutch to her kids.
Davis is simply incredible. She’s been impressive in every film I’ve seen her in – but she really brings something special to this character. In a less skilled performance, you may find some of her destructive choices to be too crazy or even manage to make you lose empathy for her. Davis’s vulnerability, paired with this foundation of strength, makes every questionable choice feel understandable. Not to mention her ability to show sincere remorse for her actions in both her eyes and body language. She is able to continue the ruse as she simultaneously communicates her remorse for her actions – all while silently asking other people to just go along with it. It is such a complex performance, that despite being endlessly frustrated with her decisions and knowing it will ultimately blow up in her face – I found myself always on her side.
McKenzie plays Bunny’s niece, Tonya, and is involved with the catalyst for everything spiraling out of control. The chemistry the two have builds over the course of the film, and really helps nail the emotional ending sequences. This is not a fun watch. However, the moments of joy that do appear on the screen will at times fill your heart, and perhaps manage to produce a small smile. While there are good things in the world, there are also a number of bad – and sometimes, decent people who seem to be buried by it all.
The movie opens with the 4 Non Blondes song “What’s Up” and ends with a cover of the same song performed by Willa Amai. I think both songs are used very well, but I really loved the cover. I basically sat through the credits specifically to find out who had done it. I don’t always shout out a song from a movie soundtrack, but I genuinely liked this one, so there it is.
The Justice of Bunny King gave me more anxiety than I was ready for at the time I decided to jump in. However, this film grabbed my attention, and refused to let go. I don’t know if Bunny, in her current situation, was in a good place to take care of her children. Despite this, I don’t think the system does a good job of making sure the children can be with their parents. I think the film ultimately points out that these matters aren’t black and white, and maybe should be handled with much more nuance. The film earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.