Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Little Woods: NZIFF Review

Little Woods: NZIFF Review

The one last job before I retire trope is as old as the hills themselves, but what director Nia DaCosta and actress Tessa Thompson bring to the hoary cliche is a degree of humanity and empathy in Little Woods.

Thompson is Ollie, a one time opioid dealer to the North Dakota fracking workers. Caught after a border run went wrong and under probation with just 10 days to go, Ollie finds herself facing desperate measures and multiple financial hardships.

But when her struggling adopted sister and solo mother Deb (Lily James) finds she's about to give birth again and needs a place to live, the clock's ticking to get together $3,000 cash to ensure their house isn't foreclosed on.
Little Woods: NZIFF Review

So, despite wanting a clean break, Ollie is forced back into the one thing she knows well, but doesn't want to do.

As mentioned, the plot isn't exactly original, but what DaCosta and Thompson - and to a large degree, James - bring to the table is a female perspective on middle America, the struggles of those under pressure, and the face of the Opioid crisis.

This is no Breaking Bad though, with Thompson providing subtle contrasts in her Ollie as she debates the morals of the right thing to do. It's very much a story of the times, and told in an unfussy manner, with tension being ratcheted up in a smaller, more intimate setting on the screen.

There's a great deal of empathy radiating from these characters, and while some of the dialogue doesn't feel natural, there's no denying Thompson's natural charm and appeal that she imbues Ollie with.

Refusing to give in, Ollie finds every path possible to explore, and the desperate scrabble to stay afloat has you in her camp from the get go.

The film's ambiguous end is a smart touch too - unsure of who gets a happy end, it's very much a crime tale told under a different lens - and all the better for it. Little Woods may hit a few of the cliche branches as it unspools, but with two extremely solid and plausible leads, it remains watchable from beginning to end.

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