Leave No Trace (2018)

I love Ben Foster and, after reading Brittani's review on Rambling Films, I was really looking forward to seeing Leave No Trace. Unfortunately, like most of the times I want to see a movie on the big screen, there wasn't a single screening in my city so I had to wait. In the meantime, my expectations kept rising as I've read nothing but great things about the film only to be crashed while watching it. 

The story follows Will (Ben Foster), an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, who lives off the grid in an urban park in Portland, Oregon, with his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie). One day, Tom is accidentally spotted in the woods by a jogger, and soon after they are picked up by social services and forced to integrate into society. While Tom begins to connect with others, Will struggles to adapt.

As you've probably guessed, Leave No Trace is not a plot-driven film —it indeed has a very thin plot— but it doesn't really matter as the story is an interesting one about family, love, loyalty and mental health, and director and co-writer Debra Granik, does a good job at handling these themes.

The problem I had with the film is that the characters don't have enough depth nor development for me to care about them. I didn't find them compelling and I was never invested in them. The father is the typical veteran suffering from PTSD. He has lost his wife and chose to live isolated from society instead of dealing with his issues and he's forcing his daughter to live in the same way. And just like Viggo Mortensen's character in Captain Fantastic, he is reluctant to accept changes and is convinced that his way of living is the only way. The daughter wants environmental stability. She wants normality, and when she finally gets it, it's only for a brief period of time. What's the problem with her? Her social skills are way too good for someone who grew up in isolation —when she starts her new, normal life, she has no problem adjusting to the new environment, she connects with everyone and has nice conversations with everyone. How is that even possible? Also, the people Will and Tom meet on their journey are way too nice. Sure, not everyone is an asshole in real life, but people aren't that nice either.

Bleecker Street
The acting, on the other hand, is very compelling. Ben Foster gives an intense performance as the damaged father and delivers both Will's strength and sadness. Thomasin McKenzie steals the show with a sensational performance as Tom. The two also share pretty good chemistry which translates in a father-daughter relationship beautifully brought to life.

In addition, Leave No Trace has a gorgeous cinematography by Michael McDonough which helps the film truly convey a mood of isolation and make you feel as if you were in the forest with Will and his daughter. The score by Dickon Hinchliffe is very atmospheric and fits the film very well. Overall though, the film is just too dull.

1 comment :

  1. Aww I'm sorry you didn't like it more. I'm glad the acting worked for you at least. Foster and Mackenzie were wonderful.