12th Nov2018

‘Leave No Trace’ DVD Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeffery Rifflard, Derek John Drescher, Michael Draper, Peter Simpson, Dana Millican, Alyssa McKay, Ryan Joiner, Michael J. Prosser, Jeff Kober, Spencer S. Hanley | Written by Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini | Directed by Debra Granik


Will (Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. 

Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace is a masterstroke of stoic intensity and a boiling pot of emotional performance from the two leads: in the ever so cleverly charismatic and convincing Ben Foster as Will, and the outstanding role of Tom by the reserve and emotionally compelling Thomasin McKenzie.

Granik continues her trend throughout her filmography – much like her breakout sophomore effort and Jennifer Lawrence starring feature Winters Bone – analysing that of her subject and the setting that ultimately defines her characters in both hopeful freedoms, exploration and condemnation. Leave No Trace evaluates and dissects the naturistic elements of safety and dependency, with the detox and calm of our world undisturbed. The constant threat of paranoia and undisclosed mental health battle with the uneasy cohesion of caring and providing for a family addding such a tremendously awe-inspiring uniqueness to this gripping tale.

It is that of the performance of Thomasin McKenzie which stands taller than even that of her ever endearing and compelling co-star of Ben Foster, who is captivating as a troubled war veteran. Interestingly and rather surprisingly, much like Villeneuve and Benicio Del Toro delved into with Sicario, Foster and Granik dispose of perhaps 90% of the former’s dialogue. Leading to a stunning stoic intensity that Foster evokes through nothing but his eyes, especially that of a scene towards the films final act which is jaw-dropping and devastating to behold.

Advertently much of the film relies on the ability of McKenzie who, considering her age and limited experience, is outstanding. How she conveys such emotional turmoil as the film progresses and as she explores her surroundings and boundaries feels genuine and tangible. As her character grows and sees inch by inch of her environment, the spirit of optimism and strength are intoxicating. Leave No Trace itself is slightly bloated in its running time due to the almost silent and slightly impassive structure of proceedings, which ultimately and contextually needs the time to build up both tension, character growth and engrossment. Credit must also be given to the cinematographer of the film, Michael McDonough, who shoots such beautiful imagery of Oregon in such a vivid and lush fashion. The depth of green looks exceptional, considering the strong usage of the environment, each scene is ever so profound and lush.

Leave No Trace is available on DVD and Digital now.


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