Leave No Trace opens this weekend and this is a special motion picture. Adapted by Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, Leave No Trace will stir memories of Cheryl Strayed’s novel Wild (Starring Reese Witherspoon) and Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough movie Winter’s Bone, which was co-written and directed by Debra Granik, who also directed and co-wrote Leave No Trace.
Will (Ben Foster) is a war veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome who is more comfortable living in the wild. Will lives with his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie ) and he home schools her out in the wild. After being spotted by the government, their hovel is bulldozed and the two are forced to live in civilization.
This is not downtown Ft. Lauderdale, but the Pacific Northwest. The father and daughter are given a home and socialization into society. While Will cuts down Christmas trees, the social worker is impressed with Tom’s intelligence. The situation is idyllic, but character is fate as Will suffers from the claustrophobia of having a roof over his head.
In less capable hands, Leave No Trace could have become a full tilt melodrama. Instead, Granik creates a low key experience that reflects the passage of time. We see Tom’s growth while Will is unable to get beyond his own PTSD. As Will, Foster gives his best performance in the movies thus far.
If Winter Bone is remembered for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, the same will be said about McKenzie’s performance in Leave No Trace. There is no crying or hysterics, but there is pain and growth in her performance. It is a revelation when the daughter says to her father, “The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t the same thing wrong with me.”
Like Eating Animals, there will be talk about award buzz for Leave No Trace. Take the time to see this one on the big screen some afternoon.