Thursday, October 4, 2018

[Review] Leave No Trace

Debra Granik, who directed 2010's stunning Winter's Bone, returns with Leave No Trace -- another heavy drama about familial bonds amidst the backdrop of America's wilderness.

A father and daughter (played by Ben foster and Thomasin McKenzie) have been secretly living off the grid in a Pacific Northwest forest. But their quiet and content existence is upended when they are found by authorities and placed into social services for evaluation. From there, the two of them attempt to adapt conventional society.

While these same themes of freedom and isolation from the modern world were also explored in recent films like Captain Fantastic and The Glass House, Leave No Trace is still a thoughtfully observed character study and a worthwhile and well-crafted portrait of contrasting lifestyles and environments. The film is shot with a crisp, yet down and dirty sense of realism, which is fitting for this story. And when we learn that Ben Foster's character is a veteran suffering from severe PTSD, the film gains another potent layer -- especially as tough conflicts arise when his daughter begins to adjust to conventional society (and even like it), while he is hellbent on returning to their home in the woods. The film dives even deeper into this dynamic toward back half, and Thomasin McKenzie delivers one of the absolutely heart-wrenching lines: "The same thing that's wrong with you isn't wrong with me."

Foster and McKenzie both give tremendously haunting and hard-hitting performances that will linger with you long after the film's tearjerker of an ending.

* 8.5/10 *

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