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Little Woods' Tells A Story Of Two Sisters Living Below The Poverty Line

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In a Q&A at the end of the Tribeca Film Festival premiere, Little Woods director Nia DaCosta joked that upon hearing the plot, some New Yorkers asked her if the movie took place in the past or in a dystopian future. Nope—the movie takes place in the present, in a the fictional Little Woods, North Dakota, a rural fracking town where most people live below the poverty line, opioid addiction is commonplace, and the nearest abortion provider is hundreds of miles away.

Tessa Thompson stars as Ollie, a young woman who is finishing out her probation after she was arrested for illegally bringing prescription pills for her terminally ill mother over the Canadian border. Her mother’s drugs weren’t all she was bringing over the border—Ollie managed to bury a plastic baggie of prescription opioids before she was caught.

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Since her arrest and her mother's death, Ollie has been getting by through a series of odd jobs—selling coffee and breakfast food, taking in laundry—and is on the straight and narrow, turning away former customers, bonding with her probation officer, and applying for a job in Spokane. But when two financial crises hit one after another—the bank tells Ollie she has one week to start making payments or her home will be foreclosed upon; and her sister, single mom Deb (Lily James), faces an unplanned pregnancy—Ollie decides she has no choice but to dig up that bag of pills and return to dealing drugs.

Little Woods shows what it’s like to live below the poverty line—as soon as one financial crisis is solved, another one hits. The heart of the movie is in the complicated but loving relationship between the two sisters, and Thompson especially gives an incredible performance. Little Woods is the first feature from DaCosta, who should have a long career ahead of her. 4 / 5

top photo: Little Woods

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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