Punch and Judy are a couple of characters in a traditional British puppet show who are not exactly known for their subtlety. Punch is placed in charge of taking care of their kids. He hits the kid, his wife gets mad, he hits his wife, a cop shows up, he hits the cop, and so on and so forth. As such, it is a bit unusual that someone decided that this story, or rather the story of its fictional creators, needed a big screen adaptation in Judy & Punch. And yet, this film is not without its charms; mostly owing to the incredibly charming performance by the inimitable Mia Wasikowska.
Master puppeteer Judy (Wasikowska) attempts to regain her career with the aid of her alcoholic husband Punch (Damon Herriman). One fateful night, Punch is left alone with their baby, which ends with him killing the baby (in a strangely tragicomic way) and beating Judy badly enough to assume she has died. After hiding the evidence, Judy comes back in search of revenge. It is here that writer/director Mirrah Foulkes takes over the classic story of domestic abuse and makes it her own.
Rounding out the trifecta of Wasikowska’s brilliant performance and commendable writing/directing from actor-turn-filmmaker Foulkes, Stefan Duscio’s cinematography wraps the whole thing up in a neat, little package. While it certainly resembles any other film from its set time, the visuals of this particular film add to the surreal quality that comes with such a violent, revenge-based spectacle.
It should be noted, however, that outside of these three elements, Judy & Punch is not quite set to join any top ten list. The film does not reinvent the wheel and it doesn’t resonate as well as you hope – you may well find yourself forgetting about it the next day. However, in the moment, it’s an enjoyable film. There are much worse films you could spend an evening with.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam