Leave No Trace review

From start to finish ‘Leave No Trace’ is incredibly moving and brought to life by impeccable performances by Thomasin McKenzie who plays Tom, the daughter and Ben Foster who plays Will, the dad.

The film focuses on the idea of forgotten America, homing in on Will’s incapability to adapt back to normal life as a veteran, bringing Tom up in a world where they live in the wilderness – moving from camp to camp and having little contact with the outside world. They live a sustainable and happy life until they are caught and Tom begins to realise this dream is not truly reality.

Debra Granik, who directed ‘Winter’s Bone’ has returned with a masterpiece and I tend to tread lightly when using that term. But this film deserves all the praise, the gentle nature of the father-daughter relationship shines incredibly bright through the restrained nature of both characters.

The cinematography is remarkable, capturing the essence of wonder and glory that they live in – rather alien to us, the spectator. We end up rooting for them to stay in this delicate state and will them to restrain from adapting as they say every so often. The use of lighting portrays the idea of how elegant nature is and it is used in such a way to characterise the surroundings as an ally.

Granik also conveys the linked themes of time and innocence throughout, there are no stereotypical teenager fits or even any arguments – the ideas conveyed about the here and now, until the very end where Tom realises the truth. That she does not suffer what he suffers, it’s bitter-sweet but an incredibly emotional way of ending which really capitalises on all the points covered throughout the film.

The essence of what this film stands for, the ideas of struggle and pain within a beautiful life is presented with such delicacy and emotion and is a riveting joy-ride from start to finish. Thomasin McKenzie shines and I would argue that she puts on the best performance by any actor so far this year and even in recent years; there is definite success ahead for her, starting with the Academy Awards in which Granik’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ received many nominations. I have no doubt the film will be recognised for the extreme talent in it and in the process of making such a gentle yet realistic take on a serious matter.

This film will not leave my mind, probably ever.

The film is out in select cinemas – The BFI, Picturehouse and Curzon are showing the film in and around London throughout the next month.

5/5 Stars

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