Monday, June 28, 2021

Movie Monday: Leave No Trace

I was searching for a movie to watch this weekend, comparing the listings on Amazon Prime to the critic and viewer scores on Rotten Tomatoes to find a winner ... and I did! We ended up watching Leave No Trace (critics 100%, audience 80% on Rotten Tomatoes), a quiet but powerful movie about a father-daughter relationship, based on a real-life story and set in a gorgeous outdoor setting.

Will, played by Ben Foster, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Tom (played by Thomasin McKenzie), live in the forest near Portland, OR, in a huge public nature preserve. While outsiders might view the pair as homeless, Will and Tom have created a happy and peaceful life for themselves, off the grid. Will teaches Tom all kinds of survival skills, and they live in a self-made campsite with a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, and other supplies necessary for both subsistence and comfort. Will homeschools Tom, who is bright, inquisitive, and happy. Occasionally, they walk together into the city, where Will picks up his check from the VA and the two buy supplies, before heading back to their wilderness home. Unfortunately for the pair, it is illegal to live in a public park, and they are eventually spotted and brought in by the authorities. That begins an odyssey of changes for the father and daughter, and the destruction of their unique way of life. They are separated for the first time in Tom's memory, where she is tested academically, interviewed, and given new clothes. Meanwhile, her father receives some preliminary psychiatric care; it is clear he is ex-military and suffers from PTSD. Eventually, the authorities find the pair a new home, though adjustment is difficult for Will, while Tom discovers a whole world and community she was unaware of. The close pair go through several iterations of change, until a crisis finally brings them to a place of closure, though not necessarily the perfect ending one might hope for.

This is a moving, engrossing story that we both enjoyed. The father-daughter relationship portrayed here (based on a real-life father and daughter in the same situation) is warm and loving, and the closeness of the pair is poignant. Movie footage features a gorgeous setting in the forests and surrounding areas of Oregon and Washington, amid towering trees and beautiful streams. The acting, from both Foster and McKenzie, is outstanding; they both fully embody their characters and show the quiet but fierce emotions they experience. There is not a lot of action here, though there are some moments of suspense and tension. It is a quiet but incredibly moving story of the power of nature to heal and the strength of love between a father and daughter ... and the limits of that love, too. We thoroughly enjoyed losing ourselves in this compelling film based on a fascinating true story.

Leave No Trace was released in 2018 and is currently available on Amazon Prime, Starz, Hulu Premium and other streaming platforms.


Caz / InvisiblyMe said...

Ooo I remember coming across this and thinking I'd like to check it out, but then I never did get around to it. I'm glad you liked it. It should be a nice escape to the gorgeous scenery, and it sounds like a well acted, emotive flick. Great review of it! :)

Sue Jackson said...

Yes, definitely worth a watch! Glad you enjoyed the review :)