December 5, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Leave No Trace

A father and daughter try to live off the grid in this quiet drama.

The 2010 indie drama Winter’s Bone more or less made Jennifer Lawrence’s career what it is.

Now the director of that movie, Debra Granik, has another quiet indie drama in the form of Leave No Trace.  Will it have a similar effect on the career of its teenage lead actress?

I don’t know, but she may deserve a similar boost after this movie.

Thomasin McKenzie plays Tom, a teenage girl who has been living in a national park outside of Portland, Oregon with her dad Will (Ben Foster).  To be fair, I don’t recall anyone addressing Foster’s character by that name for the entire movie, but that’s what he’s listed as in the closing credits, and most of the cast seem to be playing characters that they share a name with.  In fact, few characters outside of Tom seem to be addressed by any name for the duration of the movie.

As it is, Tom and Will are discovered by the authorities who attempt to place the pair in a more normal living environment.  Tom seems to adapt well to it, but Will is another story.  He has some sort of PTSD owing to time in the military.  The movie never spells out exactly what happened, preferring to merely imply heavily what happened, and that’s all for the best.  This is a quiet movie, with simple dialogue and wordless reactions used to convey the real story.  We don’t need a big speech from Will outlining his issues.  Will can’t stay around people, and Tom is increasingly unable to live away from them.  She’s growing up, and while she loves her dad, she needs more.

This is a great film, with fine performances from both McKenzie and Foster.  Granik tosses a lot of animals into the mix, giving more names to dogs and rabbits than she does to people.  This isn’t a movie for big dramatic moments.  It’s a movie for smaller, more intimate ones that pack just as big a punch.  10 out of 10 symbolic beehives.