Written and directed by Celia Jaspers, as an eight year old girl carefully decides which lollies to spend her hard earned pocket money on, she notices an old man at the counter ahead of her that is struggling to pay for the basics, bread and milk. Starring: Frank Edwards, Charlotte Jaspers and Christy-Anne Sullivan.
There’s an immediate air of sweetness and innocence surrounding Milk, it blends the qualities of its leading young lady into the directorial style. Celia Jaspers uses a creative mix of angles and framing which feel tuned to the kindness, youth and imagination of its protagonist. There’s a charismatic quality to those choices, presenting it through such fresh eyes has an easy charm. It doesn’t feel outside of the everyday but at the same time, has a touch of idealisation to its aesthetic, real but with a lightly rosy lens.
Jaspers present a simple, loving and generous story of a small act of kindness. In today’s landscape, violent or emotionally intense cinema tends to take the forefront, so it’s a delightful change of pace to focus on the positive. There is a typical pitfall of becoming overly sentimental or saccharine with a story such as this but thankfully Jaspers keeps it from going too far. The only weak spot is the score, which does tend to fall on the heavy side and push things into a more sickly arena. It’s balanced out with the more relatable tone in general, so it doesn’t become too sweet but it gets close to the line. It does however explore interesting territory in that perhaps people would be more likely to accept kindness from children, because they know it comes from a pure, innocent place, blissfully unencumbered by pride.
One of the reasons it manages to hold onto a better balance is the performance of Charlotte Jaspers, who also happens to be the daughter of writer, director Celia. She comes across very naturally, it’s extremely difficult to portray this kind of kindness with a genuine tone and yet for such a young actress, she manages it quite easily. It helps that she’s provided with a moment of consideration; rather than immediately jump to the selfless act, like any child would she contemplates whether she should stick with giving herself a treat first. Frank Edwards does well to present a man with pride, his struggle isn’t pushed too harshly, it’s dealt with in a light manner that tugs on the heartstrings but doesn’t enter melodrama. Christy-Anne Sullivan then presents a middle ground between them, a happy bystander to witness a moment of kindness.
Milk is a lovely reminder of the importance of small acts of kindness. It’s viewed through the perspective of its generous young protagonist, translating her qualities of innocence and caring to the style of direction. It’s full of colour and positivity, with an impressively grounded performance from Charlotte Jaspers, making herself and Celia Jaspers a talented mother-daughter duo. The score pushes it a touch more sentimental than it needs to be but it has a good balance overall. In a world where cinema so often chooses darkness and violence, it’s a refreshing change to spend five-minutes exploring such a kind gesture. It adds a cherry on top to know that the film itself was made out of generosity, bringing the community together to make the film on zero budget.