Many families in the U.S. live well below the poverty line. This is a reality that’s becoming more and more commonplace, with the 1% becoming wealthier, while the middle class disappears entirely. For some, poverty is new, while for others, cyclical poverty has always been an unwanted family tradition. When Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney’s (Rachel Crow) mother gets arrested at her dead-end job, the Tanner sisters realize that things can usually get worse, and they do, when the already struggling family learns that they risk being split up and placed into foster care if they don’t make some fast cash.
Deidra and Laney Rob A Train isn’t just a catchy title, but what actually happens when Deidra realizes that her mother could go away for several years, and keeping what’s left of the family together means finding a way to pay for the rent, utilities, and food. Once overachieving Deidra convinces shy and nervous Laney to be her accomplice, the sisters learn as they go with nighttime train robbing. In between grand theft, Deidra is keeping up her grades, Laney unwittingly finds herself in a beauty pageant, and their little brother, Jet (Lance Gray) is keeping his head down and his mouth shut as more money is flowing through their household than ever before.
As the sister become unexpected breadwinners, with posting their mother’s bail at the top of their priority list, other issues crop up: Deidra’s desperate desire to save money for college, Laney’s exhaustion with being unseen and unheard, and the Tanners’ deadbeat dad, Chet (David Sullivan), who becomes an unwanted but invaluable resource for the junior larcenists. While the family does their best to stay together and stay out of prison, the children’s mother, Marigold (Danielle Nicolet), is basking in her time in jail, taking a much-needed recuperation from years of being over-worked and under-paid.
Deidra and Laney Rob A Train is the quintessential comedy-drama, delivering believable drama with well-timed and not too over-the-top comedy. The Tanner family is lovable and relatable. We see so many of the struggles of being an intelligent young Black woman in an environment that will not allow that to flourish in Deidra, and in being the overlooked middle child in Laney. We witness the different ways that different children process parental abandonment and neglect. We also witness a small community coming together to take care of their own. In Deidra’s relationships with her ex-boyfriend, her guidance counselor, and even her father, we realize that she has more people on her side than she could have ever imagined. But most of all, Deidra and Laney Rob A Train is a movie about how the worst situations have the power to bring a family closer together.
I give this one 4.75 stars.