It is a film that is willing to whisper. If you don’t listen (and watch) closely, you might miss out on the deep wells of emotion beneath its quiet surface. It has a fantastic ending.
Granik lets glimmers of hope fight their way into her unflinching view of a broken America. That’s what gives her hypnotic and haunting tale of letting go its quiet power and amazing grace.
Leave No Trace tells a powerful and poignant story—one that’s simultaneously unique and universal, tragic and hopeful.
A father and daughter live a perfect but mysterious existence in Forest Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world. But when a small mistake tips them off to authorities, they are sent on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call their own.
Some months ago the film was all over the place, comparing the lead actress to a young Jennifer Lawrence. This was mainly due to the fact that this film and Winter’s Bone are by the same director. Winter’s Bone starred a young Lawrence and dealt with growing up too quickly and having to be too responsible in a world of irresponsible adults. So, comparisons were rife. I think this film is better as it is not so dreary and has moments of grace. The father figure is very strong and you sense his struggle at adapting in the world. The young Kiwi actress Thomasin McKenzie is also very good and brings good depth to the child character.
This is a really good film that stays with you a long time afterwards. It is well paced and both leads are very strong. It hints at the mental struggles you have after witnessing war but does not play at your heart strings like many other films do. Also it’s not really talked about, but you know what is going on through the actions of the character.
Leave No Trace is writer/director Debra Granik’s long-awaited follow up to the superb Winter’s Bone, similarly set a long way off the usual tracks, among the lost and forgotten of present-day America. She has adapted Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment into a low-key, quietly observational story about a man mistaking his fear for strength, and the slow realisation that the life he has chosen is not one his daughter should have to share.
USA 2018, 104 min, rated PG (drug references)
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Isaiah Stone, Dale Dickey & Dana Millican