Living off the grid seems like a good idea, how you get there, not so good…


Directed by: Debra Granik

Writers: Debra Granik (screenplay by), Anne Rosellini (screenplay by)

Featuring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Dana Millican, Michael J. Prosser, Dale Dickey

Will and his daughter, Tom, live completely off the grid away from society in the woods of Portland they occasionally visit the VA centre to get government payment and stock up on ‘store-bought’ food. Eventually, because they’re living in a National Park, social services and the police catch up with them and they are forcibly removed. With the help of the social services and veteran’s programme they are found a home and work, but years of voluntary solitude are hard to shake, especially for Will, and the yearning to return to their old life is too strong to resist.

Viewers are treated to marvellous unromanticised scenes of Will and Tom’s life in the woods and this gives you a strong base to the story and to the father, daughter dynamic. Skilfully weaving into the narrative, post-traumatic-stress, unyielding family loyalty and the need for true solitude you know we are on an interesting and perhaps harrowing trip.

The deft handling of director  Debra Granik in the pacing and telling of the story ensures that you are never really sure where we are heading as we troop along with the main characters and also cliché swerving is done as no character in the film is given a black hat. Everyone is doing what they think is correct for a reason and the reason makes sense – you know, real life.

There’s a documentary feel to the filming and style, and Leave No Trace is all the better for it, bringing it’s naturalistic acting to the fore even more.

Tackling such diverse topics, particularly the post-traumatic-stress parts, with subtlety and without resorting to ‘flashbacks’ or teenage histrionics is something I can only applaud and a refreshing change and restraint to this type of story. We do not need abuse and evil authorities for the trip to be engrossing and entertaining.

The cast is uniformly natural and the leads Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie having a real and honest father-daughter dynamic that in other hands may have faltered.

In the end Leave No Trace is a love story between a father and daughter were death, trauma and huge changes in their lives ultimately cannot weaken the love.

Worth a viewing but if you’re looking for Rambo or teenage ‘oh my god’ angst look elsewhere.

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