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Judy & Punch

Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
Judy & Punch Movie Poster Image
Violent tale with themes of addiction and domestic abuse.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 105 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, courage, inclusiveness are key themes. Importance of fighting for what's right, despite others' objections. Although revenge is an underlying motivation, concluding message is one of empathy, compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Judy is a strong woman who overcomes trauma with courage, determination. But majority of characters have few redeeming traits. Town operates under mob law.

Violence

Frequent violence, including domestic abuse. Bats are often used, resulting in blood spatter, cuts, bruises. Spoiler alert: A baby is killed after accidentally being thrown out a window. A character is brutally beaten with a stick, resulting in much blood, near death. Characters are stoned to death, hanged. Mass brawl includes bottle being smashed over someone's head. A character has both hands chopped off with ax. Organized fight includes punching, kicking, head-butting. Someone is kicked repeatedly while lying on the ground. A dog is killed off screen; its cry is heard. A dead rabbit is skinned. Two children fight.

Sex

Flirting, kissing, sexual innuendo. Two characters appear naked under a sheet, suggesting they've had sex. Nonsexual nudity includes a bare breast when a mother nurses her baby.

Language

Use of words "f--k" and "arse."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters regularly drink to excess, often resulting in fighting and lewd behavior. A character has a drinking problem that contributes to his awful behavior. One character smokes a pipe; others smoke roll-up cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Judy & Punch is a dark, very violent drama based on the 16th century puppet show "Punch and Judy," but it includes themes of courage and empathy as well as a strong female lead. Domestic violence is prominent, with graphic blood splatters and grotesque injuries. Punch (Damon Herriman) has a drinking problem, which escalates his violence toward his wife, Judy (Mia Wasikowska). Spoiler alert: A baby is thrown from a window, resulting in the child's death. The movie is set in a fictional medieval town where violence often breaks out, and there's plenty of heavy drinking. A dog is killed off screen, and rabbits are skinned and chopped. In one particularly gruesome scene, both of a character's hands are cut off with an ax. There's some use of the words "f--k" and "arse." Sex is assumed between two characters who are shown under a sheet in bed. Nonsexual nudity includes a nursing mother's bare breast. Characters smoke pipes and roll-up cigarettes.

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What's the story?

JUDY & PUNCH is based on the traditional puppet show "Punch and Judy" and stars Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman. Set in the fictional town of Seaside (nowhere near the sea), Punch and his wife, Judy, are a puppeteer double act. Punch is obsessed with fame, but his drinking causes disarray, eventually leading to a tragic event and a vicious attack. Judy subsequently embarks on the road to revenge, while the vile Punch is left to cover his tracks.

Is it any good?

This brutal retelling of the 16th century British puppet show "Punch and Judy" is atmospheric and features strong lead performances but is also very violent. Some of that violence, particularly that of Punch's attack on Judy, is tough to watch, but the consequences aren't glossed over. Spoiler alert: The death of a baby (thrown from a window) is handled in slapstick fashion, which will amuse some but horrify others. The majority of characters are hateful, especially Punch. But writer-director Mirrah Foulkes has created a strong feminist lead in Wasikowska's Judy. Despite a few missteps (keep an eye out for the Gladiator reference), the moral of the story is heartwarming, although we aren't shielded from Punch's (some might say well-deserved) fate.

Those familiar with the traditional puppet show will enjoy the backstory Judy & Punch provides, but audiences shouldn't expect the same pantomime violence. Scenes are eye-wincing and upsetting; consequently, some of the jokes fall flat, as you're still reeling from a previous scene. The material is too dark for young teens and should be avoided by those easily affected by bloody violence and cruelty to animals.

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