Rated: PG for thematic material throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 29, 2018 Released by: Bleecker Street Media
Debra Granik impressively adapts the Peter Rock book My Abandonment to her strengths as an independent film helmswoman that centers on the dilemma of a hermitic existence.
Leave No Trace stars Ben Foster (The Messenger, Hell or High Water, and, much earlier, Liberty Heights) and relative newcomer Thomasin Harcout McKenzie (The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) as father and daughter Will and Tom.
Tom is an adolescent devoted to her emotionally strained veteran dad being with him a lot at Oregon's hilly Forest Park empathizing with his inner duress, not getting the feeling of objecting to this lifestyle. Given the soundness of being raised and educated even away from the activities of a typical school.
Will isn't one to dwell in an urban environment like Portland and believes he isn't homeless. But, Tom and him will be sniffed out of their tented community on governmental land and razing will be initiated by local law enforcement. Being under a roof provided by kindly social workers like Dale and Jean Bauer (Dale Dickey, Dale Millican) isn't that really that beneficial in his eyes. His love of nature comes into question when it comes to readying trees for folks for the holiday season.
There are decisions that will have to come to fruition as Will isn't comfortable being in a more cultivated environment where he has to take a true/false psychological exam. And, Tom has to really collect her thoughts on the way she can abide to a more permanent milieu. Granik manages to shun stereotypical instances or characters, especially those around Tom and Will, as she offers sensitivity to the overall plight which isn't as banal as some may perceive.
Foster and McKenzie are very compatible, not just in the skills and learning process of 'roughing it'. Physical ailments also reveal compassionate sides to trustworthy, if wayward souls where subtext isn't very evident. At least in the case of Tom, as the New Zealander McKenzie displays much maturity even when not opposite a finely shaded, often undervalued Foster, when it comes to serenity and angst in a person perhaps not so easy to rebel against.
Leave No Trace is Granik's most effective entry since the Ozark Mountains-based Winter's Bone where Jennifer Lawrence really turned many heads with her strength and vulnerability in dogged pursuit of a drug-dealing father. The backwoods is just the place where she can manage to make a man and his dealings with his daughter vital and perhaps in the process propel McKenzie upwards in her calling.
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