Leave No Trace – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

Leave No Trace - Title Card
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Leave No Trace’s focus on a father/daughter relationship in which the main crux is stability brings about wonderful performances from Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.


Director(s) Debra Granik
Written By Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini
Date Released 6/29/2018
Genre(s) Drama
Good If You Like Films Which Make Things Clear Without Explaining Every Last Detail

Movies Focused on Veterans Who Have PTSD

Watching Father/ Daughter Relationships

Isn’t For You If You Like Flashbacks and Visualization of Someone’s Trauma
Noted Cast
Will Ben Foster
Tom Thomasin McKenzie

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Leave No Trace Plot Summary (Ending on 2nd Page)

After surviving a war, and the loss of his child’s mother, Will decides to raise his daughter Tom without the conveniences most children become addicted to. She is aware of what a TV, a phone, and things like that are, but isn’t given the opportunity to make it part of her life. How and why? Well, because Will raises her out in the wilderness, usually in the woods on public land. Why? Well, with Will being a veteran, who is going through PTSD, and also has issues with people not thinking for themselves, he doesn’t like the idea of outside influence.

But, with Tom getting caught by a hiker, who reports her existence in the woods to police, so comes an end to her and Will’s life in the wilderness. At least for a moment. For with what happened in the past, Will seems unable to function in a community for too long. Yet, with only having her dad for most of her life, Tom wants, perhaps craves, closeness with others. Leaving you to wonder if Tom might be willing to sacrifice losing not only her dad but only connection to her mom, all to have the kind of stability her father’s mental state can’t provide her.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Did I miss the reason the mom died? Was that noted?

Highlights

Tom and Will’s Relationship

Tom having a discussion with Will about the stability of their lives.
Tom (Thomasin McKenzie): The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me.

One of the things we don’t get a huge amount of when it comes to parent/ child relationships are a sense of co-dependency that isn’t toxic. Tom and Will, while not equals in age, are reliant on each other – to a point. While living in the forest, Tom has certain tasks she is expected to do, is taught by her dad about tracking, among other things, and this is for both of their survival. For while her dad could do everything, even if he isn’t much for society, he does know, and arguably likes, the concept of being in a team. Especially with his own flesh and blood for it probably gives him pleasant memories of his time in service. One of the few Will probably has.

Yet, what you also have to enjoy is how they handle disagreements. There is no dramatic, teenage girl v. her dad situation. Yes, there are issues once Tom gets to really be part of society. However, there is enough respect between them, and a recognition of each other’s needs, that Tom doesn’t switch up on us. The girl we knew in the beginning doesn’t suddenly become bratty. She is still her father’s daughter and recognizes that his PTSD is what causes his actions.

It Got Its Point Across, In Terms of Will’s Trauma, Without Having To Dig Deep Into The Wound

A newspaper article likely about Will's life.

Speaking of PTSD, it is evident Will has issues. When helicopters pass him, while working on a tree farm, it is clear he is triggered. As he gets too comfortable in a community and remembers the feeling of community he had once, you can tell him leaving comes from the fear of what may happen to the people. And all of this is shown simply by visual cues rather than taking us to Iraq, or wherever he served.

Something I enjoyed for it didn’t break up the narrative. By not jumping to the past, the film recognizes the audience doesn’t need a whole lot of exposition to get the point across. You’ve likely seen a war movie, or a movie featuring a veteran, and understand some of the things they struggle through. Why show yet another depiction and have that take away from the thereafter?

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) | Purchase, Rent, Get Tickets, or Merchandise On (Amazon) | Watch Free With Amazon Prime – Sign Up For A Trial

Leave No Trace presents one of the most interesting relationship dynamics, in terms of parent and child, seen in recent memory. It isn’t about how Tom’s dad just not understanding her and what she is going through. Also, while Will is struggling with a mental illness, it isn’t necessarily debilitating or dramatized. Instead, we strangely get a film which may not contain any thrills or push to be melodramatic, but remains compelling and engaging.

Hence the positive label. Leave No Trace is one of the rare films which has what could be seen as run of the mill people, in a fairly interesting predicament, yet it never loses its audience. In its honesty, in having its lead’s relationship surpass the need for anything over the top, we get a quality movie you definitely should check out.


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