The Justice Of Bunny King (4 stars)

The Justice Of Bunny King

Essie Davis is typically magnificent as a battling single mother in this entertaining and heartfelt Kiwi drama at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

'A homeless squeegee bandit, but sexy' is how Bunny King describes her sartorial style in Gaysorn Thavat's blistering drama. As played by Essie Davis, Bunny ekes out an unfashionable living by washing windscreens amongst stopped traffic, but she doesn't let it get her down. But Bunny has a history that catches up with her fast in this heartfelt drama from New Zealand (written by Baby Done's Sophie Henderson) that entertains while never losing sight of real social issues.

Bunny has her kids to protect and a hard-scrabble existence to defend, but things just don't go her way. Discovering that her niece Tonyah (Jojo Rabbit's Thomasin McKenzie) is in danger of being abused, Bunny needs to get out of temporary lodgings with her sister, and protecting Tonyah means frustrating the plans of her vicious brother-in-law Bevan (Erroll Shand). Fearing her wrath, Bevan calls social services on Bunny, escalating an ongoing conflict. Things come to a head when Bunny attempts to organise a children's party for her youngest, leading to a siege situation.

The Justice Of Bunny King reaches back to the glory days of irreverent Kiwi cinema, including Goodbye Pork Pie and Smash Palace, less of a cinematic civics lesson than a character study of an individual who won't give up on her dreams. Played with verve by Davis, Bunny King is a rousing, engaging character, sympathetic even when she endangers her own life with her 'animal rage'.

Opening and closing with 4 Non Blondes' 90s female empowerment anthem 'What's Up?', The Justice Of Bunny King examines the fissures created when social theories meet gritty reality. Bunny herself is easy to get behind: answering the phone in a social services office, she pointedly advises a caller, 'we'll probably just tell you that you're a bad mother because you're poor'. Such crowd-pleasing moments should help find a wide audience for its protagonist's complaints, and see Bunny King held up as the heroine she is.

The Justice Of Bunny King, Filmhouse, Friday 20 August, 6.15pm; Sunday 22 August, 9.30pm, £10 (£8); available to rent for £10 on Filmhouse At Home between Friday 20–Monday 23 August, 8.05pm, with a 72-hour watch window.

The Justice of Bunny King

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • New Zealand
  • 1h 41min
  • Directed by: Gaysorn Thavat
  • Cast: Essie Davis, Thomasin McKenzie