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Movie Review: Little Woods

When Little Woods starts, Ollie (Tessa Thompson, from Westworld, Sorry to Bother You) is running away from a pickup truck in a quiet road. It is a dream and the scene is over before she is caught, but it is clearly a lost battle. Yet, Ollie will fight it for the rest of the movie.

Those are Ollie's last days of probation, after being arrested smuggling painkillers through the Canadian border, mostly to help her dying, adoptive mother. She is determined to do the right thing and move on with her life, but as she says to her sister Deb (Lily James, from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society), “your choices are only as good as your options are.”

Deb also has a difficult choice to make. When the single mother finds out that she is pregnant again, she has to decide between having a second child, even though she knows by experience that she cannot rely on her boyfriend for support, or having an abortion. A visit to the women's clinic tells her that the pregnancy alone will cost her at least eight thousand dollars. The abortion, although cheaper, will also require more money than she has, and the closest clinic is hundreds of miles away - unless she illegally crosses the border and gets a fake Canadian ID to have the procedure for free.

Amid all that, the sisters have to raise enough money in one week to make sure they don’t lose the house left by their mom in Little Woods, North Dakota. The options available to the sisters are limited, and Ollie has to sell opioids again. It will be the last time, she decides, and just enough to raise the money she needs to make sure her sister and nephew will have a home before she can start a new life in Spokane, where she has a job waiting for her.

With the increasing tension and all the problems faced by Ollie and Deb, Little Woods is an exercise in empathy and compassion. The director and screenwriter Nia DaCosta is not interested in judging the sisters, and she invites the viewer to understand the circumstances that can lead someone to decide to make an abortion or to commit a crime. Ollie and Deb may not be heroes, but they are no villains either. They are real people, facing real choices that are limited by the options life offers them. And they have to keep running, even against all odds.

- Lalu Farias


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