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Read: Little Woods reveals America’s dystopian future is already here

In many dramatic films we are presented with a dystopian view of the future, particularly an American future. In those scenarios, there is often a huge divide between the ruling class and the poor. The system is designed to keep that divide as wide as possible and the downtrodden eke out a bleak existence while suffering the effects mentally and physically.

The thing about those kinds of films is that they are intended as fantasy, perhaps even a warning of what might be ahead of us.

In the film Little Woods, we are presented with just such a plot, except instead of being the future, this unpleasant scenario is playing out right now in economically devastated areas of rural America. 

The rise of fracking has supposedly brought an economic bonanza to a ramshackle town in North Dakota but neither the town nor its people seem to be benefiting much. They are dealing with addictions and other health issues, and everyone seems broken both spiritually and financially. 

Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is newly out of prison and on probation for drug running. She has the chance of a new job and a new life far away from her home town, but a death, a pregnant sister,  and mounting financial problems threaten to destroy her hopes.

She is offered a way to fix it all, but that opportunity risks dragging her back into her back into her dark past and involves breaking the law again.  It’s quite the dilemma!

The film is what I’d call a long burn. It’s beautifully filmed and very well acted but is rather slow in unfolding the story. Despite the almost depressing nature of the locations and conditions of the people, this is not a depressing film. I suppose that’s because it’s a well written story and the actors bring a determined dignity to the characters they portray.

What it manages to show is that while there are always some people who will manipulate and take advantage of compatriots who are struggling in life and living with desperation, there are many who are still willing to help others and their basic humanity fosters a sense of community.

 Perhaps that’s a message for us all in a present day dystopian world. 

LITTLE WOODS

In NZ Cinemas 20 May 2019

105 Minutes

Starring:  Lily James, Tessa Thompson, Luke Kirby

Director: Nia DaCosta

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