Leave No Trace

Cine qua non

One of the unique strengths of film is its ability to impart
empathy, transporting us from the insularity of our own experiences to some
character or world that, while qualitatively different, appeals to some common experience
of human tenderness. Debra Granik’s Leave
No Trace
swells with empathy in its depiction of father Will (Ben Foster) and
his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) who have been living “off the
grid” in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, only to have their lives uprooted
by the outside world in ways both disorienting and welcome.

When we meet them, Will and Tom have carved out a daily
routine of basic survival, sustenance, and companionship in a nature preserve
on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Granik does not sensationalize the dual challenges
and idealism of their pared-down lifestyle, narrowing in on moments of grounded
love and courtesy between father and daughter. Will validates and…

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