Leave No Trace (2018)

DEBRA GRANIK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.  USA/, 2018.  , , , .  Screenplay by , , based on the novel My Abandonment by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , Anne Rosellini.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Film Editing by Independent Spirit Awards 2018Washington Film Critics Awards 2018.  

Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster in Leave No Trace.

and young live in the woods of the Pacific northwest, their existence kept off the grid from the rigors of urban life as they eke out a clever and efficient survival in their tents. When Portland authorities arrest them for illegal habitation and bring them both in, social services step up and help them get set up as good citizens with a place to live and a job for Foster while McKenzie is put in school. The urge to wander is not far from his thoughts, however, and soon the father convinces his teenaged daughter to venture back into the woods even deeper than they were living before. When an injury forces her to find help, they stumble upon a rural community that she hopes will suit them both: isolated enough for him but with enough human interaction and a sense of community for her. Growing into her own person, McKenzie is having a tough time dealing with what she has begun to understand is the result of her veteran father’s trauma on the battlefield, and it’s possible they might need to go their separate ways. The story that director Debra Granik tells, her first feature film since Winter’s Bone eight years earlier, isn’t all that groundbreaking, it’s basically Running On Empty meets Captain Fantastic, but the quiet majesty with which she films the settings makes for a moody, absorbing drama that reaches a satisfying conclusion. The performances are a drawback, Foster is trying a bit too hard to convince us that he is grizzled and McKenzie lacks the substance required for the character, but they still manage to elicit genuine sympathy for their need to reject the mainstream life that we capitalists all hold so dear.

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