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By James Whittington, Wednesday 20th November 2019 Judy and Punch Picturehouse Entertainment Certificate 15 Release 22nd November
If you're tired of sequels, predictable plots and unimaginative situations then writer/director Mirrah Foulkes has something really special for you! By turning the traditional story of Punch and Judy totally on its head, she has delivered a directorial debut that is bold, brash and bloody good fun.
In the outlandish town of Seaside, located nowhere near the coast, puppeteers Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) are trying to resurrect their marionette show. The show is a hit due to Judy's superior puppeteering, but Punch's driving ambition and penchant for a drink lead to an ill-fated turn of events that Judy must avenge.
Populated with perky plotting and a cast that perfectly brings the bizarre idea to life, Judy and Punch is the sort of film that Terry Gilliam used to make. The larger than life characters are written so large that you wonder how Mirrah managed to get such deep performances from the cast but does so with a natural flair. Wasikowska plays Judy with care, giving her a fully formed identity. Judy is the talent behind this mis-matched duo whilst Herriman stops Punch from being too pantomime and instead makes him a shallow, egotistical drunkard, a man who is carried by his wife and her talent but ashamed to admit it.
The classic elements of the Punch and Judy legend are here, the baby, the policeman, the sausages (!) but it's the interplay between the leads that take this story into really dark territory. Both play off each other with relish with the ever-honourable Judy trying to trust Punch just one last time. Punch is a womanising drunkard who likes the limelight hiding Judy away for she is the real talent of the pair.
A mixture of folklore, fairy tale and an undercurrent of social commentary the film is awash with invention and eye watering detail. The script cuts like a knife, never shying away from its surreal yet grounded themes. The tone shifts throughout arriving at a suitable and satisfying payoff that though now with hindsight is a bit obvious doesn't dilute what has gone before it.
Set design is detailed and real, with a focus on keeping the fantastical town of Seaside set very much in reality. The sequences set when Judy and Punch perform their shows you can almost smell the sweat and stale ale.
Judy and Punch is one of those movies that jumps around being placed into a pigeonhole. The whole experience is very satisfying with a sucker punch of an ending. In fact, if you ever want an old time story brought to life this is the way to do it!
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