Eight years after Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik has left the Ozarks for Leave No Trace, another story of a family living in harsh terrain, but this time, it is by their own choosing. Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) live among the trees in a dense urban park in Portland, Oregon. There are hints indicating that they used to have a more traditional dwelling, but financial and psychological struggles have led to this current status quo. It is even clearer that Will does not fit in much at all with society at large and that this is where he feels most at home. Tom is just as comfortable, though that has more to do with not really knowing any other way.

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Alas, this arrangement cannot last, as Will and Tom are squatting on public land. When authorities remove them and place them in more stable housing, it does feel like the best solution for everyone involved, but it also raises a few troubling implications. While part of the human contract does consist of making certain concessions, does that have to mean that a person cannot decide to live in the location that best suits him? Who has the authority to decide where one can live, and when does that decision-making become oppressive?

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The tragedy of Leave No Trace is that Tom does not have the same restless spirit as her father. She is happy to commune with nature, but she flourishes with the constancy of an actual house. Once she realizes this, she can no longer indulge Will’s peculiarities. But they are so fundamental to his nature that he cannot ignore them. Thus father and daughter must separate to their own lives sooner than either of them would like. Leave No Trace works then quite well as a message of the importance of honesty in a parent-child relationship, even when it breaks your heart.

Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey

Director: Debra Granik

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: PG for The Dangers of the Woods and Unstable Shelter

Release Date: June 29, 2018 (Limited)

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