Leave No Trace (2018): Movie Review

Leave No Trace (2018)

There is a distinct peaceful quality to Leave No Trace. Oscar nominee Debra Granik’s (Winter’s Bone) new film reclaims nature from her brutal Ozark nightmare that launched Jennifer Lawrence into stardom.  Granik and co-writer/producer Anne Rosellini abandon bodily mutilation for a view of a father in recovery (or hiding) and a daughter who has only known the haven her father has built.  Ben Foster as Will and particularly breakout Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie as the daughter Tom develop an intense understanding between father and daughter as they clash quietly over involvement in society.


Foster beautifully unveils a tortured veteran’s reintegration into a society he has no comfort living in.  Fearing his daughter’s removal if he does not trust his ability to assimilate. McKenzie as the daughter getting her first taste of friends her own age, she is eager for her own next step.  “I don’t have the same problem you have,” she tells her father as he plots his next move–this girl is wise, having learned to fend for herself while other kids would be eating chicken nuggets. Unlike Captain Fantastic, her father is not trying to build utopia.  The father is trying to survive.

Aghast at accusations made against her father, Tom expresses a lifetime of commitment negated in her furiously quivering jaw and quick retraction of her rarely encountered drama. McKenzie is an imperfect speaker with a timid voice, but a lifetime of relative peace brought that on less than her experience.  There’s an ascertance to her life as her father has been leading her through drills that foster decisive thinking. A world of storytelling flows out of the actress and she attempts to placate the unfamiliar society. Where is home for her, a girl who has known little else that camping? She hardly remembers her mother and has been educated by her father entirely. It’s a unique role: a girl raised civilly in the woods; and Thomasin Mackenzie wrangles in the inherent danger of instability with a caring, loving father who may not be able to further match with his growing daughter.  Why didn’t this come out over Father’s Day?!?!


Finding kindness along the way, McKenzie latches onto the warmth of others–and they are lucky to find it.  Winter’s Bone standout Dale Dickey welcomes the travelers with open arms and introduces a intermediate step for the traveling duo.  Their ultimate decision is touching and as they come to terms with their future, we are graced with Granik’s subtle touch, making Bigfoot country an adventure in the woods without bloodshed.  A gorgeous family film.


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