You will find no trace of Leave No Trace in the major theaters. Despite a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating with 157 reviews, it is apparently not worth the risk. Still, this is a perfect example of a critical success that would be a box office disaster for the bigs. Not too many want to see a heartbreakingly sad movie about a homeless pair. The father can’t live in society. To the contrary, the daughter can’t live without society. You can see the chasm widen. There can be no good ending. While this movie can be a tad slow, it is fascinating to watch as they struggle to survive. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to view. On the enjoyment scale, the best I can do is 3.5 Gavels.
Will is a combat veteran, clearly suffering from PTSD. For several years, he and his daughter, Tom, live in the forest surrounding Portland. They do drills to avoid being seen by Park Rangers. Tom makes a mistake. The authorities swoop in and offer social services. Tom begins to enjoy a regular life while Will thinks they are living to to standards of others. To the chagrin of Tom, Will plans their escape to the wilds of Washington. How will Tom cope?
Ben Foster is Will, seen recently in Hostiles and Hell or High Water. His performance is stunning, subtle yet very moving. Even more astonishing is that of Thomasin McKenzie as Tom. At age 18, she appears slightly old for a 13 year old, but elicits all the nuances of a child who desperately loves her father, yet earnestly seeks a real home. A few other actors interact with this pair from time-to-time, but all have very small roles.
In this part of the country, we see homeless primarily in larger cities. Therefore, we assume water and shelter are close by in an emergency. Seeing homeless in the wilds yields a different picture. It takes skills to stay alive in such an environment. Certainly, this is still a sanitized view for the audience, but you get the picture. The movie is worth the ride, only if you acknowledge that a few tears may be shed. This one will make you think, not make you laugh.
On the trip home, we stopped at Ferrari’s Little Italy and Bakery in Madeira. The food is tasty and not inexpensive. But the real treat was the bread. With a slight deviation to the title of the song in the movie Oliver (1968), it was “Bread, Glorious Bread.” It was that good!