No clever segue or commentary. I’ve seen the trailer a few times in theaters and that’s about it.
The story looks like it’s about a dad and his daughter who have lived out in the wilderness for a very long, but are eventually found and forced to reintegrate into society.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Thomasin McKenzie (THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES , and the upcoming THE KING ) and the ever-amazing Ben Foster (HOSTILES , WARCRAFT , and the upcoming GALVESTON ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Debra Granik, known for WINTER’S BONE (2010). Granik’s partner-in-pen is Anne Rosellini, also known for WINTER’S BONE. Composing the score is Dickon Hinchliffe, known for OUT OF THE FURNACE (2013), WINTER’S BONE, and upcoming films YARDIE (2018) and ABOVE SUSPICION (2018). The cinematographer is Michael McDonough, known for WINTER’S BONE. Finally, the editor is Jane Rizzo, known for stuff I’ve never seen or heard of.
Overall, I may not have been the biggest fan of WINTER’S BONE, as I found it kind of boring, but it was the precursor film that sparked Jennifer Lawrence’s role in Hunger Games. At least this time around, I feel more invested and I do love me some Ben Foster, so I’m looking forward to this a lot. Although, I have to ask, is this just a little too familiar to ROOM (2015)? I mean, a parent and child taken from one environment, back to civilization, and there’s problems readjusting. It’s pretty similar. Aw well, here goes nothing.
This is my honest opinion of: LEAVE NO TRACE
Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) is a thirteen-year-old girl living in the woods with her mentally troubled father, Will (Ben Foster), a former soldier in the military. They do what they can to survive in the wilderness, but eventually, the police catch them and arrest Will on the grounds of living in a public park, which is illegal. Will and Tom are then given a small house to live in with the intention of integrating into society, for both of their sakes. However, the adapting process doesn’t go over well with Will and he and Tom travel out into the wilderness again. But the further they travel, the more Tom might be wanting to settle down and live the life that her father is trying to avoid.
By God, I love this film.
Truth be told, it’s a very somber and slow paced movie. But a slower pace doesn’t bother me, so long as I have something to hold my interest until things get rolling. Thankfully, that is indeed the case. I enjoy the semi cold relationship that they have with each other. Or, maybe “cold” isn’t the best word to use, but I have a hard time deciding what word to use. Will never kisses his daughter, but rather share a double-dash of clicking sounds. He has no problem cuddling, or hugging his daughter, but (and I’ll try hopelessly to not make this sound creepy) they don’t kiss. Foreheads, cheeks, nothing of that sort. It’s… odd, to say the least, but it’s compelling and I’m wondering why that is. It’s not like the subject of Tom’s mother ever comes up, so maybe that has something to do with it?
That’s actually one of my favorite elements to the film, that it doesn’t give you all the answers. Whenever these characters make a decision, the frame of their motivations is certainly present, but the complete picture is completely blank. We don’t really know why Will can’t integrate into society. We don’t know why it’s so painful that he can’t even do it for Tom. I’m sure there’s psychological experts who point to this or that mental illness, like PTSD, or something along those lines, but as someone who doesn’t study that sort of thing, it almost gets an even bigger reaction out of me. I feel frustrated toward the man for not trying harder for his daughter, but at the same time, you know he’s not mentally well and he’s only acting on instinct, so it’s difficult to attach any one emotional reaction to him, but I mean that in the best possible way. This is far and away Foster’s best performance in years, and that’s saying quite a bit. He’s churned out some great roles like HELL OR HIGH WATER and LONE SURVIVOR, but there’s something about his nuanced performance here that leaves a special mark that I haven’t seen in some time out of him since BANG BANG YOU’RE DEAD, which I still think is his best role to date. But that’s a powerhouse performance of varying emotions, whereas this one is more subdued performance where there’s layers to peel. So really, depending on how you look at it, this just might be his best performance. Personally, I think this is on par with BANG BANG.
But let’s not forget Foster’s co-star, the equally amazing McKenzie. Bravo to this young lady for being able to hold her own in this movie. There’s not a whole lot to say about her that hasn’t already been said about Foster. They both have subtleties to their characters, but I will say this. It’s heartbreaking to see her constantly following in her father’s footsteps when it’s clear that she wants to settle down and be a part of a community. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter to her what kind of community. She could have stayed in civilization and gone to a public school and been perfectly content. Likewise, there’s these woodland dwellers that Tom and Will encounter later on and she’d be perfectly content with hanging out with them as well. About the closest thing to problem that I have with her, and it’s about as nitpicky as I can get, but I wish she was a little more outspoken against her father. I mean, you can argue that there’s an equal amount of reasons for her not doing so. She loves her father, maybe she knows she’s just as comfortable out in the wilderness as he is, albeit not happy with this realization, maybe she knows she wouldn’t last long without him, there’s plenty of reasons that one could interpret. Plus, it’s not like she doesn’t snap at him eventually, I just feel like it should have happened more often, but again, I’m sure there’s more than a few reasons to justify her reservations. Regardless, McKenzie is a damn fine actress and here’s to hoping that we’ll see more of her in the future with equally great roles.
Overall, the cinematography is great, the acting is outstanding, and I won’t lie, this movie managed to make me shed a tear. It’s beautifully tragic and hopeful. Oh, and the fact that this movie is so adult in its themes, despite only being a PG movie is a rare shock. This comes as a high recommendation. It’s a smaller film, so I imagine it might be hard to find in some local cinemas, but if you see it playing somewhere near you, then this is one of the best you’ll find on the market. If not, I highly consider it for a rental. It’s a definite must-see.
My honest rating for LEAVE NO TRACE: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews: