It’s not my place to tell you, the reader, what to do. But my unsolicited advice would be to not let the cookie cutter, fresh-out-of-undergrad structure of the first act detract from the scores, acting, uniquely devised perspective on a classic down-on-their-luck tale, and cinematography (beautifully highlighting North Dakota’s breathtaking scenery). To allow yourself to be distracted by simplicities of initial screenplay beats is to distract yourself from the artistry of Nia DaCosta and her team.
Little Woods isn’t quite a story we’ve seen before. It’s not just drugs, sisters, and turmoil; it’s an insight into some potentially very real, brutal truths of conviction in all senses of the word.
Ollie, Tessa Thompson, was busted for cross-border oxy smuggling. But she is out on probation with, you guessed it: one probation check-in left. With a probation officer that believes in her and a job on the horizon that could pull her back to the straight edge, who wouldn’t want to get mixed back into the activities that got you arrested in the first place? While Ollie has no intention to return to her past life on the edge, when her sister Deb, Lily James, gets pregnant and their late mother’s house is getting reclaimed by the bank, leaving her nephew and said sister homeless, it’s time to break out the pills and get to work.
Desperation, loyalty, and some badass women pull you into this world so often detached from the general population’s sympathy toward varied demographics.
Tessa Thompson leads with fervor in this role that adds another ‘great’ to her already stacked filmography. And Lily James disappears with grace and skill into each role she tackles.
It’s a shame this movie falls into the genre drama. As its suspense drips from every pause and cold exchange, and I could swear it was a thriller. (Clearly, it is a drama, you just need to know it’s not an easy ride).
That said, let’s talk about the details: The sounds of quiet nature killed me. Furthermore, the cinematography and coloration gleam in spite of the bleak circumstances the story has woven. Truly, the dichotomy of ultimate stress and peace of surroundings of all North Dakota has to offer are impressive in a way movie-goers may find has been absent in movies of recent release.
The team has nailed this on the head, and I will be heading to the closest theater to give it a second view.
Little Woods Review
Rating: A- (The minus in consideration of the call-to-action and predictable inciting incident).