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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 accidentally thrown out of 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Judy & Punch. What message does the movie convey about domestic abuse? What would the consequences be for that kind of behavior today?
How does drinking impact the way certain characters act? What would the consequences be for that kind of behavior in real life?
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2020
- Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie
- Director: Mirrah Foulkes
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Puppets
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: June 29, 2020
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