The Price of Milk

If ever there was a modern fairy tale, The Price of Milk is it. Coming in somewhere between the acquired taste of Australian humor and classic Cinderella stories, this modest New Zealand film manages to charm and elicit continuous rounds of "huh?" at the same time. There is a love story, magic, a fairy godmother-like woman, tons of Russian music that evokes classical ballet, an agoraphobic dog that hides under a box, and a herd of cows. The fact that everything makes sense is a testament to writer/director Harry Sinclair (Walkshort, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives).

Lucinda (Danielle Cormack, Siam Sunset, Xena) and Rob (Karl Urban, The Fellowship of the Ring, Via Satellite) are deeply in love. They live seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where Rob herds cows. Things are going well between them, too well for Lucinda's tastes. Rob refuses to argue with her. Lucinda's friend Drosophila (Willa O'Neill, Scarfies, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives) suggests she do something outrageous to elicit a response. She ends up selling the herd to Auntie, a mysterious old woman (Rangi Motu), whom she accidentally ran over in her truck. Auntie admonished her to "stay warm" and her sons promptly stole Lucinda's quilt. Lucinda traded the quilt for the cows, prompting Rob to leave.

People appear and disappear, and the Sinclair uses some inventive methods of making scenery change without notice. It sounds bizarre, and it is. But everything has a mystical, childlike quality to it. The love between Lucinda and Rob is innocent, and the loss of Rob's cows forces both of them to grow up. New Zealand's lush, expansive scenery also reinforces the magical element of The Price of Milk. Gentle mountains covered in grass surround Lucinda's house. While happy, Lucinda and Rob live in an idyllic environment. Only when Lucinda goes to try to find Rob does the scenery become barren. No matter what physically happens to these people, they can only be hurt mentally.

All the actors are appealing, and they are not complete unknowns. For some reason, they all seem to congregate around shows like Xena and Hercules. In a way, that is a good thing, since The Price of Milk has a very tongue-in-cheek feel to it. There are plenty of wonderfully quirky moments in the film. The weird happenings around them baffle them, but not to a great extent. The film opens with Rob and Lucinda in bed fighting over dominance of the quilt. As they shift back and forth, sections of the quilt unfold to reveal the credits. Come on, there is a character named Drosophila. Rob loses his voice when he loses his cows, and there is a particularly nasty turn in the local road. There may not be anything extraordinarily deep about The Price of Milk, but it was fun to watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 27 minutes, Rated PG-13 for drug use and sensuality/nudity.

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