Leave No Trace

First Hit: Sublimely acted and evenly paced film about a man and his daughter living in a public forest.

From the very beginning this film is work of elegance. The beauty of the forest in the public park, near Portland, OR, where Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) are living, presents a sublime backdrop to the beginning of this story.

Will teaches Tom how to cover her tracks, how to hide, and how to escape surveillance. Why? The answer to this, is slowly dosed throughout the film, but never outright explained. This is part of what makes this film excellent.

Each time a helicopter passes overhead, the looks and actions Will takes and makes, gives the audience enough clues pointing to his participation in a war (Middle East) that has him skittish of the public, cities, and the government.

Tom, his daughter is loyal to him and he is her only parent. What happen to her mom, Tom’s wife is not explored. They don’t talk a lot with each other but when they do there is some short speak which has enough in it to keep the audience informed and engaged.

They get found by the Park Rangers and Portland Police and are taken in for questioning. They are separated and questioned and tested. Are there any sexual improprieties between the two? How has she been educated? What is Will willing to do to become more engaged with the world so that he can be reunited with Tom?

The government agencies figure out that he’s not harming Tom, but they insist that Will and Tom need to live in a home, Will needs to work, and Tom needs to go to school. A tree farmer sees an article in the paper about their predicament and offers them mobile home on his land where Will can work helping him, and Tom can go to school.

However, after a few months Will cannot tolerate the lifestyle and tells Tom to pack, they are leaving. They hitch a ride to Washington state where they begin a hike on a logging trail. After spending a very cold night in the wilderness they finally find a logging cabin and get warm.

After Will gets hurt and almost dies, Tom finds help in the way of a group of people living off the grid in a forest. The community is aligned with Will and Tom, in that they don’t like outside interference, help each other out, and leave well enough alone.

In the end, Tom decides she must find her own path while Will finally trusts that she’s found a home without him.

Foster was magnificent. His inward, hidden, brewing of a past that he’s struggling to live with, are fully evident in his performance. His looks and physical movements were perfect for this part. McKenzie was utterly amazing. Her display of loyalty, strength, and integrity towards the truth, her father and being resourceful were sublime. Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini wrote a powerful insightful script. Granik did an amazing job of creating an engaging story with minimal dialogue. The scenes in the forests and in the small places they lived were exceptional.

Overall: This film was finely crafted and Granik’s story was wonderfully presented.