Cast: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale
Direction: Nia DaCosta
Well, I think we find one of our brightest up-and-coming stars make their directorial debut. For a 29-year-old who doesn’t have any major experience under her belt and had to work with Kickstarter to get this project financed, DaCosta has certainly made the most of her experience and now has the opportunity to explode onto the mainstream scene. With Little Woods, DaCosta takes a hard look at the real problems face in this country and the lengths at which some of them go to overcome these issues. A phenomenal debut lead by dynamic chemistry from Thompson and James, Little Woods shows the level of disparity that exists in this country and the distance people will go to in order to help those they love.
The film follows Ollie Hale (Thompson), a former drug dealer who is eight days away from getting off probation and who gets by through working odd jobs and helping her community. With her house on the verge of foreclosure and her sister Deb (James) needing $8000 for a pregnancy or an abortion, Ollie has to go back to her old ways of crossing the US-Canada border and brings prescription drugs back to the country to sell for profit. With only eight days left on her probation and putting everything on the line, Ollie and Deb have to risk their livelihood just so they have a semblance of a chance of long-term success. Exclusively tackling the general premise of this movie, it’s exciting to see something this unique and shocking coming from a first-time director. Normally we see movies with people from Central America trying to come to the US looking for a better life and roughly 50% of the country supports that and the other 50% are appalled by it. When someone from your own country is the one of the people trying to cross a border for the sake of prosperity, and makes you reflect a little more on the issue as a whole. We look at the motivations that each character has, the risks they’re willing to take, and the circumstances surrounding them. These are real-life issues for people across the country and I applaud DaCosta for addressing them in a way that everyone could relate to. While DaCosta had this magnificent vision for her first movie, she wouldn’t have had any success without the brilliant work of Thompson and James. Not only do you feel a genuine family connection between the two, but they do a fantastic job of showing us the true fear and desperation of their situation. For a movie about such sensitive and real topics, there needs to be a certain amount of empathy associated with the situation and the characters and DaCosta nails exactly what we need to see from this movie. We’ve seen both Thompson and James emerge into more mainstream and critically-acclaimed roles this decade, and with these two at the front of the cast, it’s obvious why DaCosta’s full talents were on display in Little Woods.
Overall, I’m not used to seeing something this impressive coming from someone with so little experience, but DaCosta is ready to hit the mainstream and bring a message like this to widespread audiences. I see Jordan Peele recognizes her talents and called on her to direct his studio’s next horror movie and I’m really looking forward to it. Little Woods showcases a level of talent and realism combined in a way that can influence audiences regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. If anything, I think Little Woods may serve as a call to action for those who may not have known how desperate people in these circumstances are hopefully more people will do something about this issue on a societal level.
Overall Score: 8.5/10