The appeal of the traditional Punch and Judy show or in this case Judy & Punch has always escaped us being as it is a story about domestic violence is hardly the stuff to place the kids in front of and adding a dog, a string of sausages and a crocodile makes it like sound like Gemma Collins at a barbeque in a zoo. Set in a town called Seaside this reverses the expectation of the normal setting for such shows as the town here is nowhere near the seaside and Judy and Punch, like the title, again reverses the situation with Judy for once having the upper hand. Written and directed by Mirrah Foulkes this is set during medieval times and has the couple as a pair of puppeteers entertaining the masses but looking for their big break with any medieval Simon Cowell’s. With Judy the more talented of the pair yet outshone by her limelight hogging husband who is far too fond of heavy drinking. As Judy and Punch Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman are ideally cast with her pale complexion and timid manner hiding a defiant woman who is pushed once too far by Herriman’s salcious, cowardly and all to ready to pin the blame on others for the disappearance of his wife on others.
This is blackly comic with their baby coming to a comically bleak end when he’s on baby sitting duties whilst drunk and Judy getting battered seemingly to death by Punch who buries her in the woods near to their house but like their puppets she is animated back to life finding solace with a group of outcasts in the woods. It is there that she formulates her revenge on her husband who has framed an innocent elderly couple for her apparent death brow beating an inexperienced police officer into having them put to death something that is only too eagerly supported by a baying mob unaware of the full facts. It’s when Judy comes to enact a terrible revenge on Punch, one that is fatal for a puppeteer, that it’s clear this is very much a film that comes under the #TimesUp movement instigated by Harvey Weinstein’s behavior, a man who tried to rehabilitate himself by living on a ranch and frankly the last thing he needed to learn was how to lasso.
Mirrah Foulkes is an actress who has mostly been in TV series but having directed a few shorts this is her feature film debut as both writer and director and this is subversive and single minded in wanting to usurp the Judy and Punch story in what is an attempt to balance the gender politics and there’s a ready reminder over the credits of film footage showing the almost indoctrination of domestic abuse as entertainment of children watching the husband and wife puppets battering each other as being normal in a relationship.
Here’s the Judy and Punch trailer…….