Little Woods

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Little Woods Movie Poster Image
Mature, quiet small-town drama about family, money, drugs.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Raises/explores meaty topics and issues -- e.g., why can't people afford medication or treatment, and why does it take so long to get a doctor's appointment? Why are prices so high in this small town, and jobs so low-paying? How do these issues affect our country as a whole?

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a powerful woman who struggles mightily and perseveres, although she chooses an illegal road.


A woman hits a man, hard, and is (literally) thrown out into the street. A man shoves her up against a wall. A man grabs a woman's arm, threatening her. Slapping, hitting.


A scene takes place inside a strip club, with scantily clad women pole-dancing on stage. Flirting, hand-holding. One character kisses another on the head. Brief sex-related dialogue.


Strong language scattered throughout, with uses of "f--k," "mothef----r," "s--t," "ass," and "turd." Uses of "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character smuggles and sells illegal pills. She and a secondary character are referred to as "drug dealers." "Oxy" (OxyContin) is mentioned by name. Several different kinds of pills are shown. Main character gets drunk in a bar and drives drunk. Other scenes of drinking and characters being drunk. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Woods is a drama about a woman (Tessa Thompson) who's forced to go back to dealing drugs, even after being arrested, in order to pay for her mortgage and her sister's abortion. Violent scenes include a man pushing a woman up against a wall, a man grabbing a woman's arm and threatening her, a woman hitting a man in a bar, and a woman slapping a man. Drug dealing is at the forefront of the story; OxyContin and other pills are shown. The main character gets very drunk in one scene, and drinking, drunkenness, and cigarette smoking are common. A scene set inside a gentleman's club shows scantily clad women pole-dancing. Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Despite the heavy material, this is an excellent movie with a gentle, atmospheric touch that focuses on characters and moods, and it's quite moving.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJeanH. May 31, 2019

Wish there was a category for no stars.

This movie's main theme and "lesson" promotes and justifies the idea that dealing oxy "for a little while," lying to others, and an abo... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 and 11-year-old Written byLeslie C. May 3, 2019


Terrible waste of time PROPAGANDA.
Teen, 15 years old Written byDogcat November 5, 2020


Terrible waste of time PROPAGANDA.

What's the story?

LITTLE WOODS centers on Ollie (Tessa Thompson), who was arrested in her dying North Dakota town for smuggling painkillers to her ailing, adoptive mother and now has just a few days of probation left. Her mother has since passed, and Ollie struggles to make ends meet, selling coffee and snacks to local workers. Meanwhile, the bank has threatened to take the family's house, and her sister, single mother Deb (Lily James), is pregnant. Needing a lot of cash, fast, Ollie agrees to start selling pills again. Another local drug dealer, Bill (Luke Kirby), finds out and demands a cut of her earnings but also offers her a big paycheck if she'll cross the border into Canada and bring back a fresh supply. When Deb's trailer disappears with Ollie's stash and savings inside it, Ollie decides to take the job, even though it breaks her parole.

Is it any good?

An exceptional feature writing and directing debut from Nia DaCosta, this drama takes a dreary, pessimistic situation and, through its strong characters, makes it touchingly relatable. Little Woods deals with several current American troubles, from the difficulty of getting timely and affordable healthcare to the unfair economy of a town, once rich from fracking, now left with everything overpriced and money scarce. Yet the film never deals head-on with any of these things; they're carefully woven into the hard-luck narrative, which is told so gently -- without soap opera hysterics -- that it's difficult not to be moved.

Thompson, in the lead role, is tremendous. Ollie has carved out a tough armor for herself; she has an unending perseverance but is also capable of showing weariness and even hope. The moment when her small nephew crawls into her lap and asks her to shut her eyes is mistily gorgeous. James equals her, even though her character is weaker and more in need of help -- she's still fully dimensional. Behind the camera, DaCosta bathes Little Woods' doleful, cluttered sets in soft, chilly light, capturing a small-town feel and getting to the essence of the emotions of characters who keep getting back up and trying again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Little Woods portrays drugs/drug use. Why do the movie's characters take drugs? Are drugs glamorized? Are there consequences for using/selling them?

  • How are drinking and smoking depicted? Are people enjoying these things? Are they used to relax or for a lift? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences?

  • What can make it difficult for people to get the medical treatment that they need? How can the system be improved?

  • Do you think Ollie is interesting/appealing, even if she does illegal things?

Movie details

  • In theaters: April 19, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming: July 16, 2019
  • Cast: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby
  • Director: Nia DaCosta
  • Studio: Neon
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 105 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language and some drug material
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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