In Review: ‘Deidra & Laney Rob a Train’

justin eagle gauthier | yl voice | june 2016

“Deidra & Laney Rob a Train" is the story of a pair of teenage sisters forced to make frayed ends meet. In the Netflix produced film, Deidra (Ashleigh Murray), the eldest sibling, takes on the role of parent when her overworked single mother, Marigold, winds up in jail. The younger sister, Laney (Rachel Crow), is a timid teen who needs a boost of confidence. The sisters need money to both pay the bills and for their mom's bail and so Deidra hatches a scheme to rob goods off the train that runs behind their house. Things go smoothly for the sisters until the railroad company dispatches Truman (Tim Blake Nelson), an overambitious “detective" to investigate the missing goods.

Director Sydney Freeland (“Drunktown's Finest") and screenwriter Shelby Farrell take a novel premise and deftly infuse wry humor into impactful family drama. This is not a laugh-out-loud comedy but subtle, quirky moments are at work here. In the drama department, the young co-stars Murray and Crow both turn in strong performances as characters that demand a light comedic touch. The film also features an ensemble of more established and recognizable actors including Sasheer Zamata, Missi Pyle, Danielle Nicolette and Timothy Blake Nelson.

I'd be remiss if I didn't note that this film bares the mark of several acclaimed TV shows. Fans of “Raising Arizona" and “My Name is Earl" should tune in for a film that echoes the feel of those storylines. Yet it's still a fresh take on the themes of self-reliance and resiliency, because while it challenges some family drama tropes, the film doesn't delve into darkness as is common in Showtime's “Shameless."

“Deidra & Laney Rob a Train" naturally employs some stereotypes of the heist genre, but the likability of the heroes and the urgency of their story provides a fresh viewing experience. In directing a mainstream film for a major studio, Sydney Freeland is acting as a trailblazer for a new generation of indigenous filmmakers who strive for recognition in an industry that has historically ignored indigenous perspectives.

Last year, Netflix announced an investment of $6 billion toward the development of original content for 2017. Multiple blockbuster original series, including the critically acclaimed “Stranger Things" and “The Crown" are now streaming alongside Marvel Studios' shows and fantastic films like this one. The diverse content has produced gains in subscribers for Netflix. This is cause for all of us to celebrate, because without the company green-lighting such wide-ranging projects, “Deidra & Laney Rob a Train" might not have been available to all of Netflix's subscribers with just the click of a button.


Menominee Tribal member Justin Eagle Gauthier has been featured in several literary journals. He is currently enrolled in the LoRez MFA program in creative writing studying screenwriting at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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