Judy & Punch
Famed around the world, the Punch and Judy puppet show has become particularly embedded in traditional British culture and heritage. The escapades of the aggressive, violent Mr Punch and his wife Judy have widened young children’s eyes and entertained older audiences for countless generations. What Mirrah Foulkes’ directorial debut presents is an inverted, fictional origin story and a tale of utmost feminist justice that takes the foundations of the puppet duo and makes their adventures a reality.
In the barbaric and frequently intoxicated town of Seaside, bathetically introduced as “nowhere near the sea”, puppeteering wife and husband Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) are sending audiences into a frenzy with their superb marionette show. After falling from grace and out of the “the big smoke” due to Punch’s drinking problem, the couple has fallen on hard times, retreating to Judy’s childhood home. But now the duo are back with a bang, ready to impress any talent scouts that come their way. Their ambition knows no bounds, but before too long tragedy hits, causing Punch’s violent onstage persona to seep through into the real world and leading Judy to tread a path of revenge and justice.
There are numerous themes on display throughout, with the film riding a wave of emotion, comedy and medieval activity whilst also addressing some very serious notions of physical abuse and shaming. Judy is a heroine of the ages, proving the backbone of her society and family yet never receiving the gratitude and appreciation she deserves due to the period. Mia Wasikowska embodies the leading role with vim and vigour, and takes the opportunity to show off the breadth of her acting abilities. The script is witty, the characters written sharply and colourfully – particularly Punch, acted superbly by Herriman despite being a difficult character to portray. He knocks the role out of the park with a delightfully evil prowess that leaves the audience yearning for his comeuppance.
Featuring colourful period dress, the movie is beautiful, adorned with scenic countryside and creative sets, but it also, more surprisingly, features a soundtrack that tastefully reaches to unite the centuries. There is a brilliantly shameless lack of class to the attitudes and environment of Seaside; Foulkes is not afraid to inject a bit of gore into the action when required.
The feature does dip in momentum after its adrenaline-fuelled first act, lacking any realistic, detailed substance to the plot below the surface. With a tasty buildup resulting in a corny conclusion, the picture appears limited in its final outcome, despite chuckleworthy, niche little references. The performances are there, as is the script in general – there is just an element of surprise or twist missing from this entertaining romp. But Judy & Punch may certainly gain cult status yet.
Judy & Punch is released nationwide on 22nd November 2019.
Watch the trailer for Judy & Punch here: