directed by Nia DaCosta
Like Hell or High Water, Little Woods explores the isolation and precarity of small-town America.
In this way, Little Woods is not unlike the 2016 film Hell or High Water. Both are riven with the isolation and precarity of our age, their characters forced to go far beyond reasonable limits to hold on to whatever is dear. “Your choices are only as good as your options,” Ollie says.
Then again, Little Woods doesn’t have the same desert-dry wit or sense of tension as Taylor Sheridan’s misanthropic masterpiece. But what DaCosta’s film does have is women. The director homes in on a distinct sense of female vulnerability: on top of everything else, Ollie and Deb have to deal with men, who are a persistent threat. Deb’s ex-husband (James Badge Dale) could throw a drunken fist at any moment. Ollie’s rival dealer puts her up against a wall. Cops are figures to be wary of, not trusted.
Faced with conveying all this, James seems out of her depth – a stark contrast to Thompson, who looks exhausted in her soul. It’s her that we latch on to, for she channels both the despair of the landscape and the rugged determination to make things right, or at least marginally better. If there is a road out, it’ll be bumpy, but she’ll find it.
IN CINEMAS NOW
Video: Zero Media
This article was first published in the June 15, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.