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King Judith

average rating is 3 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Nov 9, 2022

Film Reviews
King Judith
Directed by:
Richard Bailey
Written by:
Richard Bailey
Nicole Fancher, Emily Ernst, Rhonda Boutte

The American Deep-South is an increasingly popular setting for gothic-thrillers, from season 1 of True Detective to 2020’s The Devil All the Time. King Judith follows in this tradition – with a mysterious anthology of stories linked to one detective’s search for missing women.


Detective Miriam Leaf (Nicole Fancher) is pursuing leads in the disappearance of three women. Each of the disappeared were academics – studying folklore tales of ‘the lady in the lake’ across the Deep South. From her first interview with Doyenne (Rhonda Boutte), it is clear that Miriam carries her own mystery – and as she delves deeper into the case, she begins to experience strange visions of the lady in the lake herself.


King Judith eschews traditional narrative expectations to result in an artistic and experimental feature that examines gender-roles, political commentary and mental well-being. The film is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste – with its lucid and opaque storytelling and ever-drifting focus which never truly commits to one plotline. Extended dance and dream sequences do not necessarily assist with this, even whilst setting the film’s unnerving, dark wonderland-style tone.


Through its segmented stories, the film does engage viewers and raises intriguing moral and ethical commentaries. However, the interconnection between these stories, and how they link to an overall theme feels lacking – and without fully committing to the approach, audiences will be left wondering what the point is – especially given the stakes raised in the film’s initial, overarching detective plot strand. Whilst the film should be commended for forgoing handholding, and allowing viewers to take their own experience from the stories, its failure to allow for surface-level understanding undermines its efforts elsewhere.


An undeniable success for the film is its tone, set by brilliant visuals and direction, as well as equally impressive set design and location. Director and writer Richard Bailey has experience with rural gothic thrillers and mystique from his previous feature A Ship of Human Skin, and a similarly unnerving atmosphere is threaded through King Judith. Whilst narratively confusing, the ‘lake’ dream scenes succeed in creating the impression of Miriam being dragged deeper into a foreign world as she explores the mystery. The colour-drained hue over the imagery distances the viewer, and makes the modern-day setting cold and unfamiliar.


The film’s acting is similarly strong – with Nicole Fancher’s Miriam anchoring the story as a worn, troubled detective lost in a confusing world. Her early interactions with the darkly charismatic Rhonda Boutte show a contrast between Miriam and the inhabitants she desperately needs to decode. Elsewhere, the scenes between Catherine (Jenny Ledel) and Pressure Mike (Ace Anderson) are a highlight of the story chapters, with the two actors brilliantly capturing the film’s unique approach to gender dynamics and power.


It’s hard to tell whether King Judith achieves the aim of the director, as no-one could mistake it for anything but untraditional - and its elusive plotline which leaves opportunity for engagement as well as resolution could well be the desired outcome. For most viewers, including this one, the lack of a cohesive and legible structure was to the film’s detriment, regardless of what artistic accomplishment this may have allowed.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Theatrical Release, Digital / DVD Release, Indie Feature Film
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