The Reel Review
For years, Iraq War veteran Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) have lived off the grid in a nature reserve in Portland, Oregon. They enter town periodically, with Will selling his VA-issued painkillers for money to buy food and supplies. When the pair are captured by authorities, they are placed in social services, but soon escape, seeking to return to their more familiar life of social isolation.
Adapted from Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, writer/director Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini (Winter’s Bone) craft a subtle, nuanced portrait of a man trying to provide for his daughter as best he can, despite his overwhelming PTSD-induced social anxiety, and his maturing daughter’s growing desire to be part of society. Both Foster and McKenzie are captivating in this haunting, realistic story, in which the small, quiet moments and its symbolism (the frequent U.S. flag imagery, in particular) convey powerful messages to those moviegoers with the patience to appreciate its languid pace.
• Prior to filming, Ben Foster underwent wilderness survival training and worked with writer/director Debra Granik to remove nearly half of the dialogue from the story, to make it feel more realistic
• Granik and Rosellini’s 2010 drama Winter’s Bone starred Jennifer Lawrence as a girl in the Ozark mountains searching for her drug-dealing father to keep her family from being evicted from their home. Character actress Dale Dickey (HBO’s True Blood) has appeared in both of their films.
• Leave No Trace is, after 2017’s Paddington 2, the second-most reviewed movie (208 critic reviews) to receive a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes