Run time: 109 mins
Ever since her understated Winter’s Bone, director Debra Granik, has been quite adept at chronicling marginalized individuals, but her new effort reveals a sustained tenderness she’s never before achieved.
Based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock, Leave No Trace is a dark, contemplative, and finally agonizing portrait of a traumatized war vet, Will (Ben Foster), who can’t endure society, alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Thom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), who lives with him in Forest Park near Portland. Granik doesn’t give the audience any bearings for a while, but it’s plain enough they have an easy, tender relationship, and that they’re careful to hide all evidence of their existence from rangers or police.
A seemingly small mistake on Thom’s part exposes them to the authorities. Hence, they are evicted from the federal land they occupy and put into the social services system. And just as they begin to settle into their new arrangement, away they go, back into the woods, leaving us frustrated and desperate to empathize?
It certainly fits into Granik’s wheelhouse: gritty, live-off-the-land filmmaking with a fascinating cast, who look like they live that life. (Jack Whiting) “a sympathetic, affecting, beautifully realised portrait of lives lived on the margins” (Empire) Come.