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leave no trace

Director: Debra Granik (winter's bone, stray dog)

Starring: ben foster, thomasin harcourt mckenzie, dana millican, and jeff kober


REVIEWER: lyall carter


A father and daughter live a perfect but mysterious existence in Forest Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world. But when a small mistake tips them off to authorities, they are sent on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call their own.

At the time of its release at the NZIFF, Leave No Trace gained a lot of press attention for its New Zealand connection through Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie.  And rightly so because her performance is just outstanding.

Leave No Trace follows the lives of a father and daughter who live a life of solitude in the depths of Forest Park, a national park in Portland, Oregon. They mostly live a life of seclusion and only interact with the outside world to get supplies. When they are discovered by local law enforcement authorities, they are placed in a home with a new job. Unable to take the pressure of structured living Will, the father, sets off again for the dense forests with his daughter Tom in tow. 


Leave No Trace is more of an observation of human experience, behaviour, and community than it is a driving, forceful narrative with an overtly, preachy message. We aren't explicitly told about former soldiers experiences with PTSD, we see it in the all of Will's decision making. We aren't told that government agencies struggle with supporting people with mental health issues or with people that don't fit their rigid grids, we see it in the way in which they deal with Will and Tom.

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie gives a terrifically, nuanced performance which exerts so much power without being explicitly forceful. Often the reviews point out Harcourt McKenzie's stunning work and neglect to praise Foster's. Its a beautiful, subtle performance and probably the best of his career so far. 

A wonderful observation of human behaviour punctuated with terrific performances from Foster and Harcourt McKenzie.


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Leave No Trace is available on DVD and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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