Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace


A small mistake derails the ideal lives of a father and his 13-year-old daughter in this drama from Oscar-nominated director Debra Granik (Winter's Bone).... More

"For years Will (Ben Foster, Hell or High Water) and his teenage daughter, Tom (New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie) have lived off the grid, blissfully undetected by authorities in a vast nature reserve on the edge of Portland, Oregon. When a chance encounter blows their cover, they’re removed from their camp and put into the charge of social services. Struggling to adapt to their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a perilous journey back to the wilderness, where they are finally forced to confront conflicting desires — a longing for community versus a fierce need to live apart." (Sundance Film Festival)Hide

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Flicks Review

The picturesque setting of Oregon’s forests, gorgeously depicted in Leave No Trace, is as alluring a place to escape to as you’ll find and a backdrop that’s the opposite of the industrialised American society Will (Ben Foster) has dropped out of. As the film opens, the military vet leads a minimalist life in a national park with his 13-year-old daughter Tom (New Zealander Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, earning every ounce of the praise leveled at her performance). Their existence is largely self-sufficient, conspiratorially secretive, and romantically rejects society’s dominant capitalist paradigm - but it’s also illegal, and as a consequence is brought to a close early on.... More

If you’re looking for a how-to guide detailing the time-honoured tradition of “going bush,” this isn’t what Leave No Trace offers. Patiently depicting Will’s relationship with Tom, the film is less woodland thriller, more a chronicle of Tom’s growth, a process that can’t be constrained by her dad’s war trauma and his consequent rejection of society. Make no mistake, though - the pair’s forced transition into mainstream life is as much a matter of survival for Will (and a test of the close bond he shares with Tom) as any outdoor escapade.

McKenzie vividly depicts Tom’s internal life in a can’t-be-missed performance - nuanced, naturalistic and seamless in bringing to life her character throughout this unconventional coming-of-age story. While Tom and Will share a relationship light on verbal communication, McKenzie and Foster convey the pair’s emotional connection, a convincing pairing in both mundane and more intense moments. Foster, too, proves a quietly moving presence, a tragic figure who’s not oversold by the actor or the film’s narrative.

Director Debra Granik (Winter's Bone) keeps us spellbound by a duo geographically and emotionally isolated from society. As it irresistibly encourages the viewer to invest in its characters, Leave No Trace proves to be an example of the magic that can be conjured by a filmmaker and their actors.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 13 ratings, 5 reviews
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Saw this at the Film Festival... totally wow! Ben Foster is awesome! His performance as a man trying to disappear was riveting. And Thomasin McKenzie does such a great job of the daughter... looking forward to see what other acting she does in the future. This isn't a fun movie, it is very gut wrenching and one of these movies that gets you thinking... take a hanky...

beautifully shot Oregon forest life, understated, spare script, and accomplished performances, Debra Granik has directed a film of lingering memorability. go girl!

Saw this in the festival- it was probably my fave film. I was still thinking about it days later. The performances are sooooo good. A captivating film- hard to pinpoint exactly how this is so good, it just is.

Director Debra Granik follows up Winter’s Bone (the film that launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career), with a father-daughter relationship movie fuelled by standout performances by Ben Foster, and newcomer Kiwi, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie as 13-year-old Tom.

Foster plays Will, an army vet living off the grid, bringing his daughter up as a back-to-nature, self-sufficient survivalist. Then child services try to intervene...

Rather than going Rambo, Granik takes a far more naturalistic,... More dramatic and human route, focusing on character and compassion.

Simple, subtle and soaked in symbolism, this is a powerful, slow-burning meditation on life and love, powered by two mesmerising performances.Hide

BY Ian_Anderson superstar

Will and Tom live off-the-grid in a forest outside Portland, Oregon. In other words, they are homeless. Will is a war veteran who is either not keen on being around people or living indoors (or both), which puts him offside with "the authorities". Tom is his "home" schooled teenage daughter.

This is more Tom's film than Will's film and showing both her love, devotion to her father and her adaptability to both their current lifestyle and to the alternatives on offer. Tom is also growing up and... More becoming less dependant on Will. Leave No Trace tries to take no sides between people on the edge of society and modern society itself. It also shows that those at the edge of society are there for different reasons, do it in different ways and don't always get on with each other. It is also a feel-good story, which like a fairy tale, takes us a little beyond the edge of darkness but brings us safely back.Hide

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The Press Reviews

  • An absorbing, delicately directed and acted father-daughter drama. Full Review

  • [Director Debra Granik] made a film of grace and power, a story of people lost and found in America that often shows us at our noble and humble best. How rare and refreshing that is these days. Full Review

  • For fans of the director's "Winter's Bone"... this unconventional family portrait shares many qualities with the 2010 film, including profound empathy for backwoods characters and the discovery of yet another young talent in Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. Full Review

  • This is a movie driven by filmmaking, and [Debra] Granik's skill behind the camera drives a lot of the narrative forward. That and, of course, [Harcourt] McKenzie's performance. Full Review

  • It's a movie that will live with me for a long time. Full Review

  • This is a quietly enthralling film that never over-plays its hand, resorts to histrionics and contrived stand-offs or forgets to recognise the undeniable dignity of its characters. Full Review

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