Sometimes I come across a film that is hard to explain, difficult to review in a normal manner, some might even refer to films like this as “unusual” or “strange”, and I’d have a hard time disagreeing when it comes to this, Rolf de Heer’s Aussie Dark Comedy Drama “Bad Boy Bubby”.
We meet Bubby, a “bad boy” who has been kept inside a dingy, dirty apartment for his entire 35 year existence by his mother who has convinced him that the air outside the apartment is poisonous and will kill him. A sudden visit from Bubby’s estranged “Daddy” brings about circumstances that lead Bubby into the outside world, a place entirely foreign and new to him.
Nicholas Hope (The Goddess of 1967) is magnificently deranged and sympathetic as Bubby, a character which allows us, as the film progresses, to see how narrow minded and closed-off to compassion the human race can be. Thought provoking, sad, weird and very dark, the film follows someone who is almost alien like in his encounters as he see’s sights that would be normal to you or I in a manner of a child first glimpsing at a bundle of presents beneath a glittering Christmas tree, or an astronaut laying eyes on the endless abyss of space for the first time might. Hope is brilliant and brings such a wild eyed curiosity to each scene that it is hard to take your eyes away from him.
There are some disturbing scenes in the beginning portion of the film involving Bubby and his mother (Claire Benito) that may be hard to watch for those viewers not quite used to taboo and disturbing subjects being tackled by cinema, but these moments are necessary in order to set up the character of Bubby and bring about a sympathy from us, the viewer, to him, the unusual protagonist.
The camera work is captivating with the way in which it creates an almost camera-on-shoulder documentary style, putting us inside the scenarios as they play out. It almost feels real at times, though we are regularly awoken from thinking that due to questionable acting from some of the people that Bubby meets on his journey.
It is one of those films that isn’t for everyone, it will undoubtedly offend some people, disgust others, and just do nothing for others, but I found a distinctive charm about the film that stayed with me after my first viewing and lead me to want to revisit the film on a number of occasions since. Hope’s performance carries the story and if it wasn’t for such a spot-on portrayal of a mentally incapacitated man who has spent his life living under the abusive thumb of his mother, then this just wouldn’t work. But it does work, and that is why I consider this to be a cult classic.
Gritty, funny at times, and definitely one of those films where you need a quick wash when it’s finished, Bad Boy Bubby is one I urge you to seek out if you like strange films and thought provoking ones. This remains one of my favourite films to come out of Australia to this day.
Bad Boy Bubby is available on Blu-ray through Eureka in the UK.