Leave No Trace
We think of hunter-gatherers as an image of our distant human past, but it is this very existence that Tom and her dad Will inhabit. Living off the land in a national park in Portland, the pair are off the grid, struggling against permanence and the trappings of modernity. In Leave No Trace we find the duo at a crucial juncture in their tense relationship, as the father battles his own trauma and his daughter fights to find her voice.
The film treats both these complex characters with a great deal of understanding. Each of them has their own vulnerabilities, but the audience is encouraged to love them in spite of their weaknesses and challenges. Director Debra Granik makes the movie feel at times like a documentary, observing life as it is as opposed to reconstructing it. Shots of the rolling hills and forests that the protagonists inhabit shift from hostile to homely. Above all, the filmmaker is able to find hues of hope and optimism even in the picture’s darkest corners, in the kindness of strangers and the innocence of animals.
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Tom) is a joy to behold. Her part demands a great deal from the young actor: she is a child, a woman, a guardian. As the character builds in strength and resilience throughout the movie, the audience witness these elements dovetailing with huge finesse.
This is a snapshot of a very real America, a feature that captures an eminently, tragically possible set of circumstances that arise when a state fails to answer the needs of the people who have sacrificed the most for it. Leave No Trace is a far cry from Thoreau. It looks to query our relationship with ourselves as individuals and citizens in a world increasingly encroaching on our potential for anonymity. The picture is perhaps the cinematic answer to Walden in our century. We must now ask what that says about us.
Leave No Trace is released nationwide on 29th June 2018.
Watch a clip from Leave No Trace here: