The Rabbit King’s Justice | Gaysorn Thavat

The Rabbit King’s Justice |  Gaysorn Thavat

Credit: Gina Loane

The Rabbit King’s Justice struggles with tone errors throughout, but comes together for a fascinating third act that reveals new layers of ambiguity.

Who exactly is the Rabbit King? Fighter and protector? Loving mother of two? Kind and hardworking soul? Or is it a shadowy shadow of the current neglect found in New Zealand’s child and welfare system? Throughout Gaysorn Thavat’s debut film, The Rabbit King’s Justice, we follow the eponymous protagonist on a journey of resilience and camaraderie, and through cycles of systematic neglect. The film’s very title is an ironic sentiment, which further magnifies King’s everyday tribulations. Homeless and working as a self-employed windshield wiper on the bustling streets of her hometown, Thavat puts viewers firmly in Bunny’s shoes, an effort to empathize with the film’s dense portrayal of social despair. King Rabbit never resorting to unnecessary clichés or any porn texture of exploitative poverty, her story follows the path of a dominant Essie Davis performance. Where the film could easily have bordered on domestic melodrama during its lighter moments — those filled with contrasting examples of goodness and prosperity — there’s a consistency and restraint in Bunny King’s portrayal of Davis and his family-focused aspirations.

The film’s narrative touches on housing shortages, job shortages, domestic abuse and other social hardships that continually disrupt Bunny’s family stability, but Thavat is careful to illuminate glimmers of hope amidst the series of dark developments. But these moments of relief are also at the root of the film’s considerable tonal whiplash. While this occasional buoyancy is essential to avoid the exploitation and banality that accompany using casual human suffering as an entertainment opportunity, The Rabbit King’s JusticeThe biggest flaw is forgetting to leave discernible breathing space between its thematic and emotionally polar plot points. At just 100 minutes, Thavat’s film – at least this view of his – would have benefited from a lengthening of the plot, giving more space to emphasize the film’s narrative progression and the sudden escalation of King’s frustration.

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But even with the occasional tonal errors, the film comes together for a captivating and necessary third act. Boasting a sequence of a fiery turmoil spot, The Rabbit King’s Justice quickly morphs from gritty realism into high-stakes suspense and, more importantly, does so organically, its attempts to emphasize King’s internal and external dilemmas over a system that constantly downplays domestic hostility and other domestic violence cases manifest its visuals. It’s a sudden but necessary narrative move that powerfully punctuates King Rabbit‘reveals new layers of ambiguity, and culminates in a final minute of heartbreaking drama.

Originally published as part of the Tribeca Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 3.

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