Yesterday a trailer dropped for a new Tessa Thompson movie, co-starring Lily James, called Little Woods. It looks like a miserable, slice-of-sad-life drama, with Thompson and James playing friends—family?—who have to Get Back Into The Game in order to stave off homelessness (financial ruin has been here all along). It looks a bit like Hell or High Water without the heist, or like something you’d see from Scott Cooper, or maybe Jeremy Saulnier. That is to say, it looks VERY good and VERY f-cking bleak. Lainey emailed me and said, “I worry no one is going to see this movie. It’s too…hard.”
Of course no one is going to see it. It IS too hard. No one saw The Rider for the exact same reason and it’s one of the best movies of last year. Should Little Woods, in fact, fly under the radar when it comes out this spring, that would make it this year’s Annihilation: A super good movie that doesn’t really find an audience because it’s difficult and/or poorly marketed, which features a fantastic performance by Tessa Thompson. (And probably also Lily James, she is no slouch.) But this is what Tessa Thompson does. In between Creed and Marvel and Janelle Monae videos, she does indie dramas that no one sees. She’s smart like that. The studio stuff buys you all the credibility you need to make movies like this.
So no, I don’t anticipate Little Woods being the breakout hit of the spring. But hopefully it will play like Annihilation and Sorry to Bother You, and find a following regardless. And not just for Thompson’s sake, but also the writer/director, Nia DaCosta. She’s making her feature film debut, and won a prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival with Little Woods. This looks like a great vehicle for Thompson and James, whether or not anyone sees it. It also looks like the kind of movie that makes for a new filmmaker’s big break. DaCosta is on that trajectory we’re so used to seeing baseball cap bros traverse. She’s done the Sundance Directors Lab, she has a festival hit garnering critical praise. Now, someone give her a two-hundred-million-dollar studio vehicle and turn her into the next celebrity director.