(director/writer: Mirrah Foulkes; screenwriter: based on a story by Tom Punch, Lucy Punch, Eddy Moretti, Danny Gabai and Mirrah Foulkes; cinematographer: Stefan Duscio; editor: Dany Cooper; music: Francois Tetaz; cast: Damon Herriman (Punch), Mia Wasikowska (Judy), Terry Norris (Scaramouche), Tom Budge (Mr. Frankly), Benedict Hardie (Derrick), Lucy Velik (Polly), Gillian Jones (Dr. Goodtime),Brenda Palmer (Maid Maude); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton, Danny Gabai; Samuel Goldwynn Films; 2019-Australia)

“Not too subtle hard-hitting feminist revenge tale over domestic abuse.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Australian actress-turned-writer-director Mirrah Foulkes in her directorial debut offers this not too subtle hard-hitting feminist revenge tale over domestic abuse. It’s a satire on the British puppet show known as Punch and Judy. The film tries hard to bring a modern way of looking at the timeless problem of women being abused by men, but tries too hard in my opinion in its efforts to tell us about female empowerment. It’s based on a story by the  brother and sister team of Tom Punch and Lucy Punch (no relation to the real puppet show), Eddy Moretti, Danny Gabai and Mirrah Foulkes. It displays a righteous anger over domestic abuse, but the uneven film bent on criticizing traditional values for not protecting families suffers from poor pacing, dullness, a pushy feminist dialogue and a meandering plot. On the good side, there’s excellent puppetry, a few amusing sight gags (such as the one involving a baby, a dog and sausages) and an endearing performance by its star Mia Wasikowska.

In the 17th century, in the landlocked English country village of Seaside, the reprehensible puppeteer Professor Punch (Damon Herriman) because of a drinking problem screws up a successful travelling marionette show he runs with his more talented wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska), the mother of their young daughter. When they try to revive the show in Judy’s hometown of Seaside, the deplorable Punch pulls a detestable unnameable act against his wife, that ostracizes her in the tone-deaf community. The feisty Judy flees her violent monster husband seeking revenge and finds shelter in the woods with a group of outcast women running away from the ignorant mob who want to persecute them as witches. The weak new constable Derrick (Benedict Hardie) shows no gumption to stop the mob and apply the law to protect all of its citizens.

The electronic score from composer François Tétaz gives the film a charge.The soundtrack that included an electronic take on Bach’s “Air on a G String” and Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire” greatly appealed to me.

Some critics compare it favorably to the Monte Python spoof of The Wicker Man, but that too was a film I didn’t care for.

Damon Herriman and Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch (2019)

REVIEWED ON 1/8/2020  GRADE: C+  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/