Magazine article Screen International

'Leave No Trace': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Leave No Trace': Review

Article excerpt

A father and daughter find their isolated existence threatened in Debra Granik’s moving drama

Leave No Trace

Dir: Debra Granik. US. 2018. 108mins

A father and daughter live off the grid, but how much longer can they live together? That question drives the exceedingly moving Leave No Trace, a character drama told with remarkable understatement and specificity by director Debra Granik and actors Ben Foster and Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. In films like Winter’s Bone (2010), Granik has been adept at chronicling marginalized individuals, but her new effort reveals a sustained tenderness she’s never before achieved.

Leave No Trace is content to tell its slim story with unrushed care

Premiering at Sundance, Leave No Trace should spark interest from buyers, bolstered by good reviews and Granik’s track record. (Winter’s Bone won Sundance’s US Dramatic competition, earned four Oscar nominations and propelled newcomer Jennifer Lawrence to stardom.) Admittedly, this is an intimate, somewhat familiar tale, which may create an inevitable commercial ceiling, but art-house crowds will take notice.

As the film begins, Will (Foster) and his teen daughter Tom (McKenzie) reside in the deep forests of Portland, Oregon, happy to live off the land and sleep in a tent far from civilization. But their rugged idyll is upset by the arrival of local authorities, who arrest them for trespassing and force them to meet with social service agencies and integrate into society. At first, the restless Will tries to make the best of this imposed domesticity, but soon he and the adoring Tom head back into nature.

With echoes of The Ballad Of Jack And Rose and Captain Fantastic, Leave No Trace is a close study of a father who has turned his back on humanity and the child he raises in this unconventional wilderness lifestyle. (What exactly happened to Tom’s mother is left a mystery.) Granik has adapted Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, and the source material provides her with the same kind of wandering, eternally searching protagonist that populated her debut drama Down To The Bone and her underrated, little-seen 2014 documentary Stray Dog. …

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