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Estonian animation was described by Chris Robinson as “between genius and utter illiteracy” on the cover of his 2007 book. Short film festival fans know that the country which boasts an oeuvre including Olga and Priit Parn, Priit Tender, Kaspar Jancis, Chintis Lundgren (she is based in Croatia but let’s not argue) and many others, will be invited to witness films through a sometimes surreal, but always unique lens. These are films made on the directors own terms and set a reputation for the country.

The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse is a feature built upon existing characters made by co-director Mikk Mägi who created the Old Man as a university student and went on to have massive success in his homeland. Joining Mägi is co-director Oskar Lehemaa who share the task of taking the Estonian pensioner from three minute shorts to feature film stardom.

“Mart and Priidik” from The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse (606 Distribution)

As with most comedic premises the conceit is very well introduced, cows must be milked every day or their udders will explode, unleashing a lactopalypse. We meet three kids, Aino, Priidik and Mart, who are abandoned for the summer on their grandfathers farm. The older two kids are distraught with the idea of having their phones taken away and having to work on the farm, whilst the youngest child Mart, takes the opportunity to put his weird little mind to work and create poop shovelling machines. The kids get to know Grandpa, and in spite of them not liking him very much he is something of a local celebrity, flamboyantly distributing milk to the townsfolk as part of his daily ceremony, much to the behest of his poor, overworked cow.

“Old Milker” from The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse (606 Distribution)

The antagonist of the film, Old Milker, is a vengeful old man who wants the cow dead thanks to his own explosive history with udders which have left him transformed into a pale, dripping creature. “My veins flow white with buttermilk. I sweat sour cream and cry tears of vanilla ice cream” if you’re not on board with the insanity of this film by this point, there’s no hope for you.

This well shot and the wacky Estonian comedy is presented with plenty of international appeal, it mimics the best thrillers and horror movies when it needs to and the visual or verbal gags per minute are kept high by a cast of colourful characters, jump cuts, set ups and landings.

After the kids let the cow loose two of them set off on a journey to find her with Grandpa, leaving behind. Old Milker seizes the opportunity to fulfil his vendetta against bovine kind, hiring a trio of nonplussed tree surgeons to help him in his plot. There’s no end to the weirdness of the plot as Grandpa and the kids come face to face with hippy festivals, sentient tree gods with automotive kinks and gigantic bears all with a backdrop of innuendo, gore, fart gags and drunken revelry. If you want a relatively spoiler free idea of where the plot takes the audience, have a look at the BBFC ratings on the website which does not include Pridik leading a forrest full of captive animals to escape through a bears arsehole with the help of a has-been rock star. It’s fair to say you’ve never seen anything like this before.

“Old Man, Priidik and Aino” from The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse (606 Distribution)

The absurdity takes us right the way through to the epic finale where Heath Robinson style contraptions face off against man and beast for a symbiotic showdown that keeps the lactopalyptic laughs coming until the credits roll.

You can’t escape the charming DIY nature of the film. The sets are limited, the models wobble around the screen and their mouths do not move, however this is a film that revels in its limitations whilst also taking the opportunity to produce some standout animation when required. From a directing point of view, though the film might not look like it was made with a million dollars worth of material, the directors have taken the feature format and shot a film to look and sound like a million dollars onscreen.

“Priidik” from The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse (606 Distribution)

In spite of the crude humour there is something endearing about the film. The relentless bad taste gags should be too much, but somehow they find a balance woven within a well told story that works. This isn’t a film that will leave you intellectually stimulated. Like reading an issue of its UK spiritual counterpart Viz, you have a laugh but you don’t learn anything – and that’s fine, not all films have to leave you thinking, worrying, contemplating or questioning. Sometimes you just need a good laugh and this film will deliver that to anyone willing to spend an anarchic hour and a half watching a cow based comedy.

Short film fans will know that Estonia is a nation with a roster of filmmakers to boast about.  The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse welcomes directors Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa to that list with a film that stands out amongst the films of a stand out nation. See this bit of bovine brilliance if you can.

The UK Premiere of The Old Man Movie: Lactopalypse takes place at HOME Manchester on Wednesday 24 May and then screens nationwide from 2 June.

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