Judy & Punch film review: puppet show comes to life

Damon Herriman as Punch and Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch
Damon Herriman as Punch and Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch

THE traditional puppet show of Punch and Judy comes to life in this dark comedy that examines the way violence against women has been and still is used for entertainment.

Recently returned to the mid-17th century town of Seaside, Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) draw in crowds with their famous puppet performance.

Judy knows their success could be greater if only Punch could get off the booze, but his debauched ways lead to tragedy when she asks him to look after their baby daughter while she is out of the house for an hour.

Terry Norris as Scaramouche and Benedict Hardie as Derrick

Judy & Punch immerses you in a fantastical bygone era filled with caricatures sporting a variety of ambiguous accents and despite being filmed in Victoria the setting does look like a Monty Python-esque old England.

Aside from drinking in the pub, the main form of amusement in the town is the public stoning of women accused of being witches, with Judy the only person to turn away in discomfort.

She is our moral compass yet frustratingly passive for most of the film, which unfortunately makes her quite a bland character.

Punch is given equal screentime and Herriman makes him highly entertaining and charming, his moments of cruelty all the more jarring as he struggles between remorse and his instinctual desire to be popular and liked.

Perhaps this is the point actor turned first-time director Mirrah Foulkes is making, that even in a film that calls out society’s acceptance of violence against women, as an audience we will all but forgive the perpetrators as long as we find them entertaining enough.

THE ESSENTIALS

Judy & Punch (MA)

Director: Mirrah Foulkes

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie

Three stars

In cinemas from November 21

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