‘Leave No Trace’ Movie Review

Thanks to Sony Pictures Releasing we got to see Leave No Trace before its Australian release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go it see at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!

Debra Granik‘s drama, Leave No Trace, is profound and thought-provoking from start to closing credits. Opening with close-ups of nature’s beauty within the public parklands of Portland, Oregon we are witness to the daily activities of father and daughter, Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), who eke out an existence off the land. Will is an army vet’ suffering PTSD who supplements their simple lifestyle selling his prescribed painkillers to others. McKenzie makes a brilliant debut as his teenage girl, wise beyond her years – thanks to her dad’s ‘home’ schooling – and loved and protected by her father. It’s the social life of a thirteen year old Tom lacks.

A passing jogger notices Tom sitting, reading a book, and soon both she and her dad are removed from the park by social services and placed in a home on Mr Walter’s (Jeff Kober) tree farm. Walter cites Christian compassion as his motivation (Will and Tom attend a church service to halt unnecessary questions) but it’s quickly obvious Will is Walter’s free labour. Despite new domestic comforts and interaction with a neighbouring peer, Tom correctly observes, “Everything’s changed now”.

Will and Tom leave the farm, and so continues their nomadic existence, until Tom connects with the close community at a caravan park, particulary its leader, Dale (Dale  Dickey); as close as a mother figure she’ll find. Tom’s father, however,  is still haunted by nightmares and his troubled mind. Will’s earlier reassurance to his daughter that they can always have their own thoughts is what ultimately sets the two on different courses. Tom is tired of never settling, and finds peace with Dale’s surrogate family. Will must accept this, as heartbreaking as it is.

Debra Grank and Anne Rosellini render a wonderful adaption of Peter Rock‘s book, The Abandonment, which is complimented by Dickon Hinchliffe’s score. Earlier collaboration on by Debrak and Rosellini saw them successfully tackle issues of family ties, poverty and life struggles with a strong young female lead (Jennifer Lawrence) with Winter’s Bone, another novel adaption, and Leave No Trace does likewise. A close-up of a spider spinning its web, in the first few minutes, is a metaphor of the fragilty, yet also resilience and beauty, of home. Whatever or wherever that may be.

Exclusive release at Dendy Newtown and Cinema Nova on August 23