When Marigold Tanner (Danielle Nicolet) has a mental breakdown at work and is caught trying to steal a television, she gets sent to jail leaving her two daughters, Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) a genius level, high schooler, Laney (Rachel Crow) her unpopular younger sister and Jet (Lance Gray) their little brother, to fend for themselves.
The CPS worker, Gloria (Kinna McInroe) warns Deidra that if she cannot feed her siblings and maintain a minimum standard of living, they will be put into foster care.
They go to visit their mother in prison. She is still mentally fragile, glad for the state to be taking the burden of life’s struggles off of her, even if it is in the most extreme of circumstances. Deidra, frustrated and angry at her mother’s attitude, takes her siblings home.
Deidra earns some money tutoring other students, but it is not enough as the bills begin to pile up. She works out that they need to raise eleven thousand dollars. That will clear the debts and get them enough money to bail their mother out of jail.
At school, Laney is picked as a potential miss teen Idaho, much to her supposed best friend’s, Claire (Brooke Markham), displeasure. Claire does not hide her disdain, saying she expected Laney to support her. Deidra goes to see her ex, Jerry (Myko Olivier) who is a bit of wheeler-dealer. She wants to sell weed. He tells her that he does not sell weed anymore. He tells her to go see her father.
Deidra goes and sees her father, Chet (David Sullivan), who works at the railways as a guard. He is somewhat of a wastrel and Deidra has very little respect for him. A news report video of detective Victor Truman (Tim Blake Nelson) being interviewed about train robberies.
Chet is in the back of the broadcast. The report gives Deidra an idea. She decides to rob trains. Laney and Jet go to see their mother. She tells them how she missed out on a television show because she got pregnant.
She enlists the help of Laney and they plan to raise enough money to bail out their mother and pay the bills. Deidra also plans, secretly, to save enough to pay for college. The two sisters begin to execute their plan. They plan to steal various goods and Deidra goes back to Jerry to sell the goods.
Victor Nelson is investigating the robberies. He needs a win, having gotten into trouble due to excessive force on a previous case. The broken seals have alerted the railroad company. Deidra goes and visits her mother again, alone. She is unhappy that she intimated to Laney that having them, getting pregnant, derailed her life.
Nelson suspects that the robbers are students after seeing footage of them by the tracks. Ms Spencer (Sasheer Zamata), who sees Deidra as her ticket out of the rural school she is stuck in, as she is the only student in the school with the talent to go to an ivy league college, goes looking for Deidra. When she finds that she has not been attending classes, Ms Spencer goes to their home.
She finds out that Deidra is the mastermind behind robberies. Deidra persuades her to not turn her in. Nelson turns up at Laney’s school assembly. Deirdra, who knows that the police are after them, has not told Laney, who remains none the wiser.
Deidra forgets that the Gloria from the CPS is coming for a visit. She and Laney rush into the house and find Chet there talking to Gloria, saving them. Chet comes on board with the robberies, marking the containers that have the more valuable items of merchandise in them.
Chet goes to see Marigold in prison. They are still irresistibly drawn to one another even though they are separated. Nelson is determined to interview every student as he notices the operation has become more sophisticated. Chet tells the girls about a big haul coming through, but Laney gets worried. During an argument with Deidra, she discovers that Deidra has been taking money for college.
Nelson interviews the students. He dismisses Deidra because she is the valedictorian. Deidra investigates Nelson, finding out about his psychological profile. Jerry tells Deidra off for being so judgemental. She apologises. Gloria finds out that Chet is their father. Chet runs off with the kids.
Deidra goes to see her mom again and get the whole story. A traffic accident wiped out all the money she had been saving to send Deirdra to college. A reality show pushes her over the edge when she is at work and she ends up smashing the television and in jail.
Nelson works out that the Tanner sisters are the robbers. He arrests Laney at her pageant. He goes looking for Deidra. Deidra frees Laney and they hatch a plan to take down Nelson. Chet, who had left, comes back and smacks Nelson. The railway company settle with the Tanners. Deirdre goes to college. The end.
Deidra and Laney Rob a Train is a wonderfully entertaining film. Written by Shelby Farrell and directed quite creatively by Martin Freeland, it is an unexpected gem on Netflix, completely different from anything else you are likely to see on the streaming service.
The film jumps straight into the story, the three siblings relationship shown in the first two minutes. Five minutes in, the driving force of the film, the mom getting incarcerated, has happened and the film is off. The acting from everybody is perfect.
Ashleigh Murray’s Deirdra is so believable that everything that happens subsequently is completely in keeping with her. Rachel Crow as Laney, in the shadow of her quite brilliant sister, is heartbreaking and perfect. Her lack of confidence displayed in her posture and general demeanour even when she does not speak.
Farrell’s script is full of comedy gold, especially in the characters of Chet, Ms Spencer and Nelson. The fact that it balances drama and comedy, with the central premise of train robbing, is quite impressive. You actually believe that someone could do it, and get away with it.
Even though Deidra is a bit of a know-it-all, you still root for her as her heart is in the right place and ultimately they are doing a wrong thing for good reasons. The casting of Ashleigh Murray as the lead is heartening. A dark-skinned young, woman, especially as her entire screen family is light of skin and white, is a bold decision.
The strength of the story, acting and direction are such that the casting does not distract. It definitely helps that the bright-eyed Murray is so good in her role. The music is really good as well, punctuating scenes and working as a good mood setter.
Freeland’s direction is brisk and the film hurtles along at a good pace, with no wasted or unnecessary scenes. Every scene, anything that happens on the screen leads to something else or tells you some information you need to know.
Deidra and Laney Rob a Train is definitely worth ninety minutes of your time. It is better than the six point one on IMDB would have you believe. An absolute gem.