Based on the 2009 novel ‘My Abandonment’ by Peter Rock, ‘Leave No Trace’ tells the story of father and daughter, Will and Tom. Living off the land in Portland, Oregon this duo don’t have conventional lifestyles and Will’s parenting techniques aren’t what everyone thinks they should be. The film follows this family as they attempt to adjust when their normal way of life is disrupted.
Like our character’s way of life this narrative is most definitely slow paced. There’s no big opening or initial release of energy to catch audiences’ attention. Instead the film starts as it means to go on with a consistent pace that once settled into moves a long nicely. Think ‘Into the Wild’ meets ‘Captain Fantastic’ and you might end up with something similar to ‘Leave No Trace’. It has a free spirited vibe to it but also features a more pressing debate on parenting and lifestyle. Furthermore, it’s a touching drama in many ways – allowing both main characters time to be explored and understood and insight into how this affects their close-knit relationship.
It’s Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie who star in the leading roles here. Both manage to convey a lot without a huge variation in the tone of their scenes and subsequently their performances. They are so effective in their subtleties as both characters are very grounded and lack a whole lot of animation, making it even more impressive that they almost exclusively drive the film forward and are responsible for the majority of the viewers engagement. Much like the natural presentation of these characters the narrative never over dramatises its content. It doesn’t give audiences all the answers either, well not straight away anyway. Instead it reveals them in an authentic fashion and at a natural pace. This feels in line with the picture as a whole and contributes to the moving quality of the film which feels so realistic.
‘Leave No Trace’ is an understated piece of film-making that is wholly worth seeking out amongst the more bold and brash cinematic offerings that our screens are full of. Both Foster and McKenzie have nowhere to hide in this intimate drama but their confident performances make it work. While there’s no doubt that it will be too slow-moving and uneventful for some audiences those willing to experience this father daughter journey at its own pace should find it rewarding and poignant.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 7.5/10
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