The Price of Milk

          Compared with the rest of the world, the New Zealand film industry is
  still in its childhood. In the last two decades, there have been significant strides
  made, but the country still only outputs a handful of feature films a year, most
  made with some governmental support. Still, there have been several high quality
  movies that have enjoyed international success, including
Utu (1983),  an epic             
   about a Maori warrior, helmed by Geoff Murphy,
Mauri (1988), Merata Mita's
  drama about a prodigal whose return to his isolate home has a deeply profound
Heavenly Creatures (1994), Peter Jackson's examination of the true-life
  murder case involving teenage girls, and
Once Were Warriors (1994), a searing
  drama helmed by Lee Tamahori about an aboriginal family struggling to survive
  in contemporary times. Each of these directors has brought an intriguing visual
  style and distinctive voice to world cinema and many have gone on to direct
  Hollywood features with varying degrees of success. Perhaps the latest name to
  join these ranks is Harry Sinclair, a former actor who has begun to carve his niche
  as a filmmaker with
Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (1997) and his
  latest, the fairy tale-like
The Price of Milk.

          Inspired by both the natural beauty of New Zealand and, of all things,
  classical music by Russian composers, Sinclair has crafted a quirky romantic
  comedy that is as free-spirited as its heroine. Lucinda (Danielle Cormack)
  is deliriously happy in love with dairy farmer Rob (Karl Urban). Each has his
  or her own little foibles, she collects baby shoes and he talks to his cows,
  but on the surface things could not be better. Everything starts to unravel
  when Lucinda accidentally runs down a Maori woman (Rangi Motu) standing
  in the middle of the road. Shortly thereafter, things start to go badly for the
  heroine; she begins to feel that she and Rob are losing interest in one another.
  Egged on by her best friend Drosophila (Willa O'Neill), Lucinda begins to do
  things in order to provoke Rob -- like swimming in a vat of milk. For his part,
  Rob gets angry at first, but he cannot remain upset with Lucinda. (He even
  joins her in the ruined milk.)

          When her precious quilt is stolen off their bed in the dead of night,
  Lucinda becomes upset. While driving into town, she spots her quilt at the
  home of none other than the elderly Maori woman she mowed down.
  Bargaining for her quilt, she trades Rob's cows for its return. The chain
  reaction this sets off includes Rob becoming so angry that he loses his
  voice and calls off the wedding, and Drosophila moving in to offer aid
  and comfort to a brokenhearted Rob.

          Sinclair and company spent seven months filming
The Price of Milk
  and the writer-director has stated that he worked more from an outline than
  a finished script. The haphazard, almost serendipitous manner in which the
  film unfolds reflects this, but the end result (despite some minor flaws)
  is loaded with an off-kilter charm. The odd sense of humor may not completely
  translate to American audiences, but there is still much to enjoy, including the
  breathtaking landscape captured by cinematographer Leon Narbey, the
  soundtrack that includes the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and the fine
  leading turns by Cormack and Urban.

                                  Rating:                B
                                  MPAA rating:       PG-13 for drug use, sensuality and nudity
                                  Running time:      87 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.