Direction: Nia DaCosta
Grounded, socially aware, and believable, Little Woods is the first directorial effort by New York-based writer/director Nia DaCosta, whose bleak yet stubbornly optimistic tale highly benefits with the lucid performances from Tessa Thompson and Lily James.
In the last eight days of her probation, Ollie (Thompson) is decided to do better than smuggling pills over the Canadian border. However, the economically fragile Little Woods in North Dakota is not a comfortable place to make a living. If everything pointed in the right direction, the death of her mother and the unexpected contact with her depressive and emotionally volatile sister Deb (James), makes her step on muddy territory again. Despite the opposite personalities and some antagonism that stems from the past, the sisters unite in a dramatic small-town thriller that rings true. In fact, and even depicting complicated situations, the plot line is solid and never derivative.
Sombre as it may be, this low-budget film centers on a character that never stops searching for solutions in an extremely adverse environment. DaCosta’s personal vision brings out shades of Kelly Reichardt and Debra Granik and refuses to exclude the possibility of dreaming, which is a positive factor. If you enjoy a tightly wrought story with clear-cut characters, then Little Woods is for you.