In Estonian folklore a “Kratt” is a mythical creature who will work around the clock for you. Once done with a task it says “Give me work!” and you had better have a job ready or it will kill you. (One way to distract it is to ask it to do an impossible task like making a ladder out of bread!) In Rasmuss Verimoo’s funny, enchanting, and often outrageously absurd 2020 Estonian feature “Kratt” (now available on VOD), children create one to help their grandmother with her tiring farm chores but with unexpected consequences. This might be a good family film too if you’re okay with some curse words, a bit of violence and an old lady igniting her superhuman farts to propel her like a rocket miles away.
Two city kids (Mia – Nora Merivoo and Kevin – Harri Merivoo; I’m guessing they are the director’s children) are left to spend the summer at their grandma’s farm so their parents can go to a detox event where they drink ayahuasca and participate in drum circles. They took their children’s phones with them and we see that even in a former Soviet republic, the kids are addicted to the internet. Mia, who wears T-shirts with western logos like a sparkly “Miami Beach,” worries what her Facebook followers will think of her long hiatus. The two children, despite their whining, are refreshingly less bratty than their western counterparts. (One of my favorite takeaways from the film were the English catchphrases the kids use, like “Thanks, but no thanks!”)
After their initial disgust over the reality of farm work they dive into to help grandma Helju: shoveling the chicken shit, raking apples, feeding the animals. An adventure with two local children results in them finding a long-missing volume explaining how to create a Kratt so they set out to build a superhuman worker to relieve Helju and themselves of their daily chores. This part reminds me of classic U.S. teen comedies of the ‘80s like “Weird Science.”
Accidents will happen and they inadvertently turn their grandma into a Kratt (and with a scythe stuck in her head, too). They’re delighted to put up with Helju doing all the farm work at first and cooking hundreds of gluten-free pancakes as they search for a way to return her back to her old self.
There is a political satire subplot that is humorous at times but not as much fun as the adolescent adventures. Lembit (Paul Purga), whose huge jaw makes him look a bit like the animated character Shrek, father of Mia and Kevin’s friends, leads a group of tree huggers trying to save an ancestral forest. Each protest ends with a new header photo taken for their Facebook page! Helju/Kratt becomes involved in the political drama with absurdly bloody results involving a beleaguered local political official.
I’ve never seen anything else by director Verimoo but his direction here is masterful and the cast is enormously talented. And with the already stated caveats it would be a great choice for family movie night.