Lily James

REVIEW: Little Woods (2018)

Ollie (Tessa Thompson), a reformed drug runner who was caught coming back from Canada with medicine for her dying mother is trying to do the right thing when her sister Deb (Lily James) arrives on her doorstep in need of help. As the sisters try to get the money together to stop their family home from being reposed, Ollie must go back to the dangerous way of life she thought she’d left behind.

Little Woods is described as a modern Western and that description makes sense. Ollie does illegal things, crossing the border into Canada to buy drugs, to help people. The people she sells the prescription drugs to are her friends and neighbours who often don’t have insurance or the time or the money to go to the hospital to get treated themselves. This job Ollie finds herself in, is not one she enjoys, and she is in constant fear that she’ll get caught, but when things get tough for her and her sister, they have very few options. She’s fighting the system and helping the little guy while in a town that feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Little Woods shows how messed up the American health care system is when a pregnancy can cost at least $8,000, and getting an abortion is even more difficult. Never mind all the other health care costs characters in Little Woods face, and as they are in a former oil boomtown with very few financial prospects, it’s like a hopeless cycle.

Tessa Thompson and Lily James both give a brilliant performance full of pain as they struggle to dig themselves out of the bleak situations they are in. Thompson is the lead and the main focus of the film but the strong sisterly bond the two of them have is palpable and it adds another dimension to Little Woods as each of their actions are not just for themselves, but to help each other.

Director and writer Nia DaCosta allows the camera to linger on the characters, so you get to see more of their inner conflict, especially when a character is now on their own or no one except the camera, is looking at them.

The score composed by Brian McOmber is haunting and compliments the beautiful cinematography by Matt Mitchell. Set in an North Dakota town, the setting of Little Woods is equal parts pretty and desolate as the wide-open spaces give way to struggling communities.

Little Woods is a tense atmospheric thriller with compelling performances from Thompson and James. 4/5.

Little Woods or Crossing the Line as it’s called in the UK, is currently available to rent and buy quite cheaply on iTunes – I’d definitely recommend it.

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

As Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to open the hotel on a Greek island like her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) always dreamed of doing, she learns about how her mother as a young woman (Lily James) discovered the island and found love and heartache along the way.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the sequel to the hit 2008 film Mamma Mia! and it manages to be a sequel and a prequel at the same time. Nearly the entire cast of the original film are back, and their chemistry is just as good all these years later. There’s some fun editions too with Andy Garcia as the hotel manager and Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. The young cast all do a fantastic job of bringing their own take to the characters we already know. Lily James has big boots to fill with Donna, but she is great as a young Donna who is fun, adventurous and loving. The moment when she starts singing “Mamma Mia!” when she’s broken hearted but then turns it into a moment of strength and joy is infectious.

The songs here are a mixture of the well-known ABBA songs, a lot of which were naturally featured in the first film, and some lesser-known B-sides but they were no less enjoyable. There’s a combination of sad songs and the toe tapping feel-good songs that will have you dancing in your seat. The songs, the drama and the characters all come together to make Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just as entertaining as the first film.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a love letter to the relationship between Sophie and Donna. They have such a wonderful mother/daughter relationship and this film manages to make you cry over them. It’s beautiful to have this relationship being the heart of the film, and the story works so well because both characters don’t have to be on screen for you to see how much they mean to one another.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is also very funny. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters are scene-stealers as Donna’s best friends Tanya and Rosie, and their younger counterparts Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are also brilliantly funny.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a film that plays with all your emotions. It’s surprisingly sad and touching at times but overall it is a funny and joyful film that makes you forget that the real world isn’t all blue skies and dance numbers for the moment. 5/5.

REVIEW: Baby Driver (2017)

Working for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best in business, that is until he meets waitress Debora (Lily James) and wants to get out of the whole shady business altogether.

Baby Driver is a fun film. I thought it was fine but I did not love it. In part I feel that’s because I’ve come to realise I’m just not a huge Edgar Wright fan, I’ve never hated any of his films but they never really leave a lasting impression and I do not love them like so many other people seem to.

I feel Baby Driver can be summed up by two things – the car chases and the soundtrack. The car chase sequences are thrilling and exhilarating and I liked how they always showed off Baby’s skills in different ways. The soundtrack is full of catchy, recognisable songs and I did like how the film used the soundtrack (and sound in general) however having a film that constantly had a backing song was a bit grating at times.

Baby has tinnitus, meaning he constantly has a ringing in his ears, and he uses music to block it out. It was the way the film showed how Baby heard sounds, like how it got quieter when he took an earbud out so it was like you were in his shoes throughout the film, that I really liked. The whip fast editing that went with the music was cool too.

Baby Driver felt like style over substance to me. This is a film about a getaway driver so naturally there’s heists (one of my favourite things in any type of story ever) but I found myself no really being engaged with it. I think this was down to the characters. All the cast did a fine job but I didn’t get attached to or particularly like any of the characters except for Baby’s foster dad Joseph (CJ Jones).

Baby Driver is a sharp, fast-paced film. It’s full of action and thrills but it lacks that final punch of something great for me. 3/5.