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.