A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living in an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.
It’s taken 8 years for Debra Granik to follow up on her breakthrough success ‘Winter’s Bone’, and ‘Leave No Trace’, a touching story of the bond between a father and his daughter, is more than worth that wait. The film is about Will (Ben Foster) and his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) who live an isolated existence off the grid in a park near Portland, Oregon. They mostly fend for themselves but occasionally have to make trips into Portland for supplies, and it’s shortly after one of these trips that their existence is compromised and they’re brought back into ‘normal’ society against their will.
The film is beautifully played with an understated tone that avoids big melodramatic moments for quiet, tender sequences that allow Foster and McKenzie to play off one another. Ben Foster is an incredibly underrated presence in general and his performance as Will is superb, depicting a man troubled by his past (hinted at but never explored) and who finds some form of comfort in the wild. Thomasin McKenzie is every bit as good as his teenage daughter and her display here deserves to do for her career what ‘Winter’s Bone’ did for Jennifer Lawrence. As the film moves on and the pair reject their new surroundings we start to see a split forming as Tom starts to see the benefits of living in a community instead of a solitary existence and how this plays out is well crafted by Granik and her leading duo.
I thought ‘Leave No Trace’ was an excellent film, directed well and superbly performed by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie, and it’s one of the finest American films of the year so far. It wasn’t playing at any of the multiplexes near me so if you do have the benefit of an arthouse cinema nearby I’d highly recommend finding the time to check it out.
Directed By: Debra Granik
Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeff Kober and Dale Dickey