Rating (2.5 out of 3)
Summary: Rented “Leave No Trace” for a $1 on iTunes and boy am I glad I didn’t spend any more on this film. While beautifully shot, “Leave No Trace” is boringly slow and I never really cared about what happened to the two main characters.
Plot: A military veteran, Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) live in the outdoors in a national park in Portland, Oregon. They are discovered, and enter the “system”. After some time they make their north. Tom and Will must decide how they both want to live.
What I Liked: The interesting presentation of how they lived and survived day to day in the national park. She picked mushrooms, they had a small herb garden where they would bury the eggshells, he would sell his meds for money to buy other necessities, etc.
Then as they travel north, and Will is injured and they are forced to seek help. A small cooperative/commune of people living in tiny/small homes and RV’s shelters them as Will recovers. Seeing how Tom connected to this small community in the woods was the highlight of the film. The presentations of alternatives to living in a typical home and city were provocative.
What I Didn’t Like: Painfully slow describes “Leave No Trace” the best. There are long shots of the wooded mountains of Oregon and Washington. Then the coverage of their day to day life, Will and Tom walking along the road, cooking their food, shooing away the wolves. If it added to the tension or developed a character I would support these types of shots, but these shots didn’t accomplish anything.
Understood from the inferences Will has suffered through war and still has nightmares, and assumed he has PTSD. Further, it is inferred Will wants to remove himself from society and what he perceives as evil ways and live a simple life in the woods. He imposes his simple way of life on his daughter.
However, I needed more background about Will and his family to understand why he forces living in the wilderness on his daughter. Did he not have a sister, brother or parents or another family member who could care for Tom. When the daughter finds the commune Tom believes the commune is a reasonable alternative to living in the cold. Will almost died in the woods and they were frozen and broke into someone’s cabin to survive. Will didn’t pause and stop to consider the best course of action for his daughter. Without the background, without a moment of contemplation, Will wasn’t a victim, he was being selfish. Therefore, Will is the villain and Tom is the heroine.