52 FILMS BY WOMEN: #18
Leave No Trace (2018) USA
Written by Debra Granik
What do you do when that stray that you love, is your dad?
First off, before getting into this wonderful film, hats off to Debra Granik in making the most poignant film/character study/ Love Letter to the idea of “Daddy’s little Girl” with this piece. Additionally and similar to her work in Winter’s Bone, she makes “the woods” a lush understated character in this story of a Father and daughter who are (for lack of a better term) “Wilderness Squatters”. It’s impossible to call them homeless in the sense that they are trained survivalists and from the beginning, it seems that they want nothing more than to be left alone.
The film opens with Will (Ben Foster) and his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) foraging in a state park. this almost seems like extreme camping till we begin to understand that this the way they live and survive. Like others, who live off the grid these two are careful to cover their tracks and make due in any weather.
Through the films we come to discover that Will is a veteran and that he and his daughter have managed to build a life under these circumstances with a bit of prescription bartering with other vet squatters in this town..
This all comes to a crashing halt when Tom is spotted by a jogger one day, which leads to Will’s arrest and Tom in a youth center as the family begins a shift into “society”.
A very interesting story up to this point and an opportunity to go off the rails, as many might expect social services and all of the folks that this family comes in contact with to be overbearing busy-bodies assuming that they would know exactly what this family needs.
But Granik’s piece is grounded in empathy from every angle/vantage point and though the family’s adjustment into society is hard, all involved are cognizant of this, which also offers a love letter to social work as Cuaron’s Roma offered to domestic workers.
The beautiful irony is that the biggest split happens when Tom begins to enjoy the company of others.
While my fingers are crossed for Ms. McKenzie to get break out fame like her predecessor Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, my emotions were torn.
Yes, she needed and wanted others as a young girl growing, but then there’s dad struggling with PTSD and only knowing solace in being alone or with her.
Their life/adventure and final outcome as a family will move you and makes the film an overall shining gem in the world of indie cinema.
Leave No Trace (2018) USA
Written by Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Dale Dickey