We’ve all reached that point in our lives when it feels like we’re going nowhere. The wheels are spinning, but a lifestyle of lethargy and apathy act like an anchor. The reasons can sometimes be a lack of money, insufficient experience to get a job or, in the case of Bunny and the Bull’s Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg), an unending fear of the very worst things in life happening. Stephen has crippling agoraphobia and not left his flat in months, which has become an altar to unshakable depression and OCD. When some mice threaten his usually rigorous daily routine, Stephen finds himself beginning to reminisce about the events that led to his present day situation.
The catalyst for everything appears to be a man called Bunny (Simon Farnaby). Aggressive, confrontational, bawdy, a billy bullshitter and Stephen’s closest friend, Bunny convinces him to go on a trip to Europe and it’s this trip that makes up the bulk of the film’s narration.
Paul King (The Mighty Boosh/Come Fly with Me) provides a novel approach to Stephen’s flashbacks, which in hindsight, is reminiscent of the latest adaptation of one of Tolstoy’s classics. Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina was set firmly within the confines of an abandoned theatre. Wright was suggesting the text’s protagonists are never true to themselves or each other. Merely aping emotions and putting on a front. The artificial meets reality. Similarly, Stephen’s adventures with Bunny are constructed out of the contents of his own flat. Takeaway cartons contort into restaurants, forests spring from cardboard and the sky fills with newspaper snow. If the hero refuses to leave his flat, then neither shall the story. It produces the effect of someone trying to pick their way through their memories, creating a hazy recollection that isn’t quite true. In the same way, Levin, Anna Karenina’s only realist, leaves the theatre, Stephen’s memories only start to be realistic when he comes to terms with the root of the problem.
Finding the deeper meaning in all this may seem a bit much knowing that Bunny and the Bull is supposed to be a comedy. But like all the best comedies, it’s successful because of this dark field in which it pitches its humour. In this instance, a young man’s potential insanity. When the laughs come, they are wonderful. From eating his bodyweight in seafood to more life threatening risks, Farnaby’s Bunny refuses to bow down in the face of any adversity and comes across like a mean-spirited Homer Simpson. On top of that there are unsurprisingly comedic turns from Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and Richard Ayoade who have all collaborated with King in the past.
Bunny and the Bull is a delightfully quirky, extremely well crafted comedy that has a real heart and speak to anyone who feels, like Stephen, they’ve come to a stop.