Tessa Thompson and Lily James go above and beyond as a pair of sisters in Nia DaCosta’s feature debut, Little Woods.
We’re introduced to Ollie (Tessa Thompson), a woman struggling in Little Woods, North Dakota. It’s a small town with so many people suffering due to the economy. Ollie is looking to escape the city and move where she can make a better life for herself. Gone are the days where Ollie would take prescription bills north of the border to Canada as a drug runner. These days, she’s trying to move out of the small town.
Unfortunately for Ollie, her adopted mother passes away and she’s forced to reunite with her sister, Deb (Lily James). The two of them hadn’t been talking for some time. The news is worse for Deb. She’s become pregnant and her ex, Ian (James Badge Dale), isn’t the most reliable person to depend on. In visiting doctors, Deb learns that her pregnancy will cost her nearly $8,000 and $2,200 if she gets a C-section. This is just without insurance! This news gives Deb a lot to think about–does she go through with the pregnancy or get an abortion? It’s the financial reality that makes Deb’s decision such a tough one.
In addition to Deb’s own personal mess–if that’s the best wording–Ollie and Deb have to deal with their mom’s house being foreclosed on. They settle on half the amount owed in order to prevent the foreclosure but Ollie’s left with a stark decision to make. Ollie really doesn’t really want to go back to running pills but it may just be the only choice to make if it means saving the house. Factoring into the equation is Ollie having been placed on probation.
It’s as fine of a feature debut as one could ask for from writer-director Nia DaCosta. DaCosta’s script draws on the economic situation as well as the opioid problem seen in many states. The script is wisely grounded in a narrative revolving around the two sisters. It also provokes themes usually reserved for Westerns. In depicting the small North Dakotan town, DaCosta is able to draw some powerful performances from both Tessa Thompson and Lily James. Never for a second does one doubt that the two are siblings because of the chemistry between the two. Moreover, the emotional hurt can be felt in watching their performances. While DaCosta is a rising talent behind the camera as a director, Thompson has taken her career to an entirely new level in 2018.
Led by the strong performances from Tessa Thompson and Lily James, Little Woods marks the arrival of Nia DaCosta as a force to be reckoned with.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Nia DaCosta
CAST: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, with James Badge Dale and Lance Reddick
An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Little Woods premiered in the U.S. Narrative Competition.