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Leave No Trace

Military vet Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) live in a makeshift shelter in the woods outside Portland, Oregon. Will suffers from severe PTSD and wants nothing but to live away from the stronghold of society. He cares for Tom, by teaching her survival skills and selling his psych meds for cash to purchase supplies. Tom and Will are constantly training to keep their lifestyle a secret not only because they are living illegally on public lands but because Tom is a minor. When Tom and Will are caught by authorities, they must grapple with what will come next. 

Leave No Trace is directed by Debra Granik and based on a true story that was fictionalized by author Peter Rock in his novel My Abandonment. It’s a truly superb drama that offers no answers and just takes viewers along for the ride. We don’t know the circumstances that led to Will’s PTSD and the lifestyle choices he made for him and his daughter. We also don’t know much about Tom’s mother other than the fact that she died many years ago. Some viewers might struggle with this but I find the movie does a great job revealing just enough to keep us enthralled. Foster and McKenzie give brilliant performances. They expertly keep their emotions at the surface, giving us visual cues that relate information that the story itself doesn’t provide. There is so much both actors convey in a look or an expression that keeps us thoroughly invested in their journey.

Leave No Trace is available to rent on DVD Netflix.

Together Together

What happens when you’re more than ready for your next journey but life hasn’t caught up with you yet? Matt (Ed Helms) wants to have a  baby.  He’s 45 years old, a successful app developer, financially stable and emotionally ready for parenthood. The trouble is he doesn’t have a partner. Matt takes the next step and hires surrogate. Anna (Patti Harrison) is a 20-something barista who agrees to the arrangement so she can afford to go back to college. Parent and surrogate are supposed to remain emotionally distant but Matt wants to be involved in every step of the process. The two form a bond that crosses the boundaries they were supposed to set for each other. What will happen when the baby finally arrives?

Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, Together Together is a sweet, quirky movie about the curveballs life throws at you and how relationships don’t always fit easily into societal molds. Beckwith was inspired by “the idea of strangers coming together in such an intimate and complicated circumstance.” The movie takes its time exploring all the nuances of Matt and Anna’s situation with all the ups and downs that come with it. Helms is fantastic as the neurotic soon-to-be-dad and Harrison is a delight as the emotionally conflicted Anna. The film suffers from an abrupt ending that will leave some viewers frustrated. Despite that, I recommend you watch this charming and heartfelt movie.

Together Together is in theaters now and releases on digital May 11th.

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