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“Leave No Trace” Hypnotic and Heartfelt






Review by John Delia

Hypnotic and heartbreaking, the drama Leave No Trace inspired by true story enters theaters this weekend and its’s a winner. This slice of life draws you into the lives of a father and daughter in the midst of hard times troubled by the past and fostered by a need to deal with dreams that may never be. If you like extraordinary films with stellar performances and storytelling, then do not miss Leave No Trace.

Will (Ben Foster), a veteran with PTSD and his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) have been living in an Oregon forest park in Portland for several years. Trained by her dad, the two of them have set up camps and moved about so they would not be detected by the Forest Rangers. They love their life of meager trappings and Will has been “home schooling” Tom to keep her up with other girls her age. They go to the nearest city of Portland so Will can visit the VA for his disability check and pick up supplies.

Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace a Bleecker Street release All photos by Scott Green

On one occasion while Tom is doing her chores in the woods someone spots her and turns them into the Ranger Patrol. Being a minor, Tom gets assigned as a ward of the city. Director Debra Granik moves her film along with ease as she works the forest as one of the characters in the film. We see the father and daughter living a viable life in the woods using only what they need and keeping the forest a part of their lives.

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and director Debra Granik on the set of LEAVE NO TRACE, a Bleecker Street release.

Nicely acted by Ben Foster as Will the dad that has a hard time coming to grips with posttraumatic stress disorder as a war veteran. He takes care of and teaches his daughter about life and how to avoid those who would interrupt their meager existence. At times he shows how the PTSD has affected his reasoning and later succumbs to it. Foster has been an actor since 1996 and his most memorable roles include Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma, Steve MacKenna in The Mechanic, Matt Axelson in Lone Survivor, and Tanner Howard in Hell or High Water.

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie stars as Tom in Debra Granik’s LEAVE NO TRACE, a Bleecker Street release.

Fairly new to the big screen Thomasin McKenzie makes her debut as the co-star of Leave No Trace and she nails the role. She radiates as Tom, a teen who responds to the needs of her father above her desire to mingle with girls her age. She’s determined to help him through his psychological nightmare playing the role of partner in his quest to outwit society. No matter how unrealistic the script may sound, the person she depicts did survive the odd lifestyle undaunted and you can see it in McKenzie’s performance.

Leave No Trace has been rated PG by the MPAA thematic material throughout. There’s also a message that PTSD still lives on in those who have faced war while fighting for our country and often times affects those most closest to them. Bring some tissues along as you will probably need them.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good film that tugs at the heartstrings. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Dana Millican, Isaiah Stone
Director and screenwriter: Debra Granik,
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material throughout
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min
Opening Date: July 13, 2018
Distributed by: Bleecker Street
Released in: Standard

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