There is a good armful of films that come across as weird and strange while being absolutely engrossing, “Bad Boy Bubby” fits into that mold with ease. This Australian film: directed, written, and produced by Rolf de Heer is a low budget 114 minute film that mixes comedy, crime, and drama to leave it’s audiences aghast about what they are seeing.
Bubby is a thirty-something year old that has been tricked by his mother to live a sheltered and isolated life in the same small room in Adelaide. He is regularly beaten and sexually abused for her pleasure, and she has convinced him that the outside world is poisonous and if he steps outside the apartment he will surely die. Things take a random turn when he estranged father turns up from the outside world, casting doubt on his belief about the toxins in the air. He experiments with a cat and some clingfilm to test a theory on breathing – and then risks a venture into the outside world. In the outside world he embarks on a journey of self-discovery thanks to some seedy people and a random rock band that adopt him. While previously all he knew where the confines of his apartment, now in the outside world he realises how massive it is, and how strange and dangerous it is too.
From the opening of De Heer’s 1993 film it is quick to release that there is a lot wrong in the world that Bubby lives in. He is abused and suffering mental illness, mainly due to the nurturing that he has brought him into adult life, and possibly by other childhood traumas that the audience do not get to see. The film is an unflinching account of abuse and crazy which is not easy to watch at times but is engrossing enough to keep viewers transfixed on the events – we, the audience, don’t have to look, but we can’t look away. It is through Bubby’s interactions with the outside world though, that we see that the everyday society, is crazier than we let ourselves believe.
Playing Bubby is Nicholas Hope, an English actor cutting his teeth on his first full length movie. His wild and dishevel looks lend themselves well to the titular character in this. He carries off the abused and unhinged character well. Like the film itself, his performance is hunting enough that you feel engrossed to follow his pain and his adventure, despite it not being a typically glitzy and glamorous film.
The first time I saw this film I was in shock and my jaw was practically open throughout. Having not been fully able to comprehend what I had watched, I rewatched the film within a week to see if what I had seen was real or imagined. I concluded that this is a seriously a strange and weird film – its power lies in its ability to hook its audience into watching it and trying to understand and make sense of it. That was probably my first mistake with it – do not try to understand it, just watch it. It is like weird or random poetry which probably does not make sense, but there is a little beauty somewhere in it. Rarely will you see a film that deals with rape, incest, psychological abuse, and mental illness – which is then mixed with love, individuality, compassion, and poetry. This is not an easy film to digest, and it will not be for everybody, but it certainly is an experience that I am glad I went through.