18 May 2019 | paul-allaer
Tense family drama... "Your choices are only as good as your options"
"Little Woods" (2018 release; 103 min.) brings the story of sisters Ollie and Deb. As the movie opens, Ollie is burying a package of some sort in the woods somewhere in North Dakota (only much later do we learn what is in that package). We get to know Ollie, as she is coming closer to ending her probation (for dealing opioids). "You are so close, please stay out of trouble", her probation officer implores. But Ollie's house is about to be foreclosed on. Meanwhile Deb is in an even tougher spot: she lives in a trailer on a parking lot, along with her young son. Then she finds out that she is pregnant... At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature-length debut from African-American writer-director Nia DaCosta, and what a debut this is! Almost from the get-go, the situation is tense, and the mood is grim, as Ollie and Deb are coping with a tough playing field (or as John Mellencamp once observed: "doing the best they can"). The odds are stacked against them, and it never seems to get any better, on the contrary. The movie benefits enormously from the lead performers: Tessa Thompson is masterful as Ollie, and I doubt we will see her again in such a small indie movie anytime soon ("Men In Black: International" is next up for her, if you get my drift). British actress Lily James plays Deb, and she also is clearly on her way to bigger things (next up for her: "Yesterday"). When deep into the movie Ollie and Deb assess their situation, which looks dire, Ollie wryly comments "Your choices are only as good as your options". DaCosta captures it all perfectly, and this is frankly an amazing and impressive debut film that had me on the edge of my seat throughout.
"Little Woods" premiered at last year's Tribeca film festival, yes over a year ago! No idea why it has taken this long to get a theatrical release, but better late than not I suppose. The movie opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (5 people, including myself), which is a darn shame. Hopefully the movie will find a larger audience as it is released on other platforms. If you are in the mood for a tense family drama with outstanding lead performances, you could do a lot worse than "Little Woods". Of course I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater (if you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.