© Sony Pictures Entertainment Deutschland GmbH

Leave No Trace
U.S.A. 2018

Opening 13 Sep 2018

Directed by: Debra Granik
Writing credits: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Peter Rock
Principal actors: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeffery Rifflard, Michael Draper, Derek John Drescher

The trailer gives away too much of the story, so don’t watch it all. Just take in the lushness of the Pacific rainforest, the faces of the man and the girl as they are discovered in it, and the contrasting world they are taken into. It’s not there are huge twists to the story, just that what does happen should be experienced as it unfolds, because this is an absolutely beautiful movie and its pacing is crucial. A trailer can’t do such a measured, detail-rich movie justice.

Will (Foster) is a combat veteran tortured by memories, technically homeless but actually living deliberately off the grid in the woods with his young daughter, Tom (wonderful newcomer Thomasin McKenzie). He’s a loving, responsible father in all ways but the obvious one, and he provides what the forest doesn’t by selling off his PTSD medication, obtained through occasional forays to the VA in the city. Will and Tom seem to be getting along okay, playing chess and foraging for mushrooms, though one wonders what kind of future Tom can expect. Their discovery and capture upends everything, and subsequently they are in the hands of social services.

There aren’t any major villains here. It’s actually heartening how many people want to help this strange, taciturn pair who only resent the intrusion. The real disruption, ultimately, will be not from without, but from Tom herself, when she begins to imagine a different life. “The thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me,” she tells her father, breaking both their hearts.

This film makes the most of its resources. The richness of the landscape is gorgeous but not romanticized, rendered so fully in sound and image that the damp chill of it is palpable. The dialog is spare, but every sentence advances the story – not a word is wasted. And the performances are superb, particularly those of its leads, who are so completely their roles that it’s difficult to imagine them as anything else. There is already, not surprisingly, talk of multiple Oscars. See it when you are ready to quietly and patiently give it your full attention. It’s worth it. (Mason Jane Milam)

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