Sunday, September 02, 2018

Leave No Trace

Yesterday I saw Leave No Trace, starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.

Will (Foster) is a veteran suffering from PTSD, raising his teenage daughter in the woods of a public park outside Portland, Oregon. Tom (McKenzie) accepts this life with grace as it's all she knows. We assume mom has passed away, but she's only mentioned briefly, quite vaguely, so we're not sure.

When Tom gets spotted by a hiker, their life is exposed and social services relocates them to temporary housing on a farm. There, Tom begins to make friends with nearby kids her age and Will works on the owner's tree farm in exchange for lodging. Tom loves it and Will hates it.

After just a few weeks, Will insists they leave and soon enough, they're back to a transient lifestyle. For the first time Tom lets Will know that she was happy with the structure and stability of the farm life. Though it pains him to make her suffer because of his issues, that doesn't prevent him from caving and they continue to press on.

The film is both tender and excruciating to watch. This father and daughter are genuine friends, and their love runs deep. Tom has learned amazing survival skills from Will, but his unreasonable need to be off the grid is unfair to her and she comes to realize that. Though his actions make you angry, you feel for him and that's a testament to the pain that comes through Ben Foster's eyes in every scene.

Tom McKenzie is also convincing as a young girl who just wants more out of life, but doesn't want to hurt her father.

If you're looking for a film that moves along at a quiet, but important-to-the-story pace and also makes you re-think every homeless person you encounter, give this a chance. It may just bring perspective along with the tears.


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