Netflix UK film review: Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Ivan Radford | On 26, Mar 2017Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Sydney Freeland
Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow
Watch Deidra and Laney Rob a Train online in the UK: Netflix UK
Deidra and Laney Rob a Train belongs to that odd group of films whose titles explain the plot. Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney (Rachel Crow) are sisters. They rob trains. That’s all you need to know. But there’s a deceptive amount of substance to the slight set-up.
Why do Deidra and Laney start robbing trains? Because their mother (Danielle Nicolet) has a mental breakdown, leaving her locked up and them needing to make ends meet to stop social services from taking them into custody. The family is poor as it is, and with an absent father, the burden is firmly on Deidra’s shoulders to raise enough cash to fill their empty food cupboards. She’s smart enough to make quick bucks by helping other kids with their homework, but also smart enough to realise that’s not enough to live off. So when she spots a news story about people robbing trains, courtesy of her useless dad, she decides to try crossing over the wrong side of the tracks.
If that sounds like the basis of a gritty urban drama, though, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how chirpy the movie’s tone is: this teen flick is more screwball farce than social commentary, and it’s all the better for it. Director Sydney Freeland chucks offbeat titles and cheerful music at the screen to create an almost whimsical feel, keeping things slick and upbeat. Even when the token cop turns up to investigate, meanwhile, he’s played with just enough dim-wittedness by Tim Blake Nelson to keep the threat of arrest relatively benign. (Why yes, he vapes.)
If anything, there’s more peril in the beauty pageant that Laney finds herself roped into, as a former friend turns on her and a fierce catfight erupts. That commitment to the stresses of everyday teen life is key to Deidra and Laney’s carriage-raiding escapades – surrounded by bizarre visits to their inmate mother, a clueless father and an inept but well-meaning headteacher, their behaviour is perhaps the only logical thing on screen. Rachel Crow is amusing to watch, as Laney becomes increasingly corrupted, but it’s Ashleigh Murray who really shines, playing everything with the entertaining charisma she’s shown week after week as Josie (of the Pussycats) in Riverdale. Their convincing relationship gives what could otherwise be a slight, forgettable caper just enough weight to steamroll along at a charming pace.
Cute, funny and full of young talent, this is a very likeable comedy that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The message of self-reliance and resourcefulness may be tainted slightly by the fact that it involves stealing, but what a treat to see a film with two African-American women in the lead without that being a central talking point. More like this please.
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.