Rating:

The classic children’s puppet show gets a dark reimagining in Mirrah Foulkes’ directorial debut feature, Judy & Punch, a bizarre blend of black comedy and unsettling drama. This is an entertaining, slightly unnerving film that boasts an impressive period setting and two solid lead performances, making it a surreal yet fascinating experience. This film sees Judy seeking retribution against her alcoholic and manipulative husband Punch after he accidentally murders their child and beats her near to death.

This is a strange and odd film which, on the one hand, feels more measured and intelligent than you might think. It impressive and engrossing thanks to its intelligent, unique concepts that surround, not just the origins of the famous puppet show, but also the witch hunts during the medieval period. It’s a complex and intriguing combination of the two that feels very unorthodox yet still entertaining and the dark humour plays into that effectively. The child’s death in the first act looks as though it’s played for laughs, but scenes like that can be seen in poor taste depending on the viewer.

The period setting is well-utilised and realised thanks to amazing production design, the costume design is also spot-on, as well as some great cinematography by Stefan Duscio. Then, of course, we have both Judy & Punch themselves and both lead performers are mesmerising to watch from beginning to end. Mia Wasikowska is a fascinating, ethereal presence, while Damon Herriman finds the right balance of charming and creepy.

Judy & Punch is a curious oddity, and one that’ll certainly divide audiences with its bizarre nature, but it’s highly admirable for Mirrah Foulkes to attempt something this macabre, this bizarre and this twisted. It’s very scrappy and rough around the edges, but there’s something wonderfully unique to be found here, and there’s no doubt that the film will find its passionate fanbase.

Dir: Mirrah Foulkes

Scr: Mirrah Foulkes

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Tom Budge, Benedict Hardie, Gillian Jones, Terry Norris, Brenda Palmer, Lucy Velik

Prd: Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton, Danny Gabai

DOP: Stefan Duscio

Music: François Tétaz

Country: Australia, US

Year: 2019

Run time: 105 mins

Judy & Punch is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.