Leave No Trace: What You Need To Know
Debra Granik may only have a handful of films under her belt so far, but the director is already earning a reputation as a skilled storyteller, particularly when it comes to the subject of outsiders, whether in documentaries like 2014's Stray Dog or in feature films such as her Oscar-nominated 2010 film Winter's Bone.
Her latest film is no exception in that regard, taking Peter Rock's 2009 novel My Abandonment as the basis for Leave No Trace, which tells the story of an army veteran father and his daughter living an off-the-grid life deep in a public park in Portland, Oregon, until a simple mistake changes their lives forever.
After earning glowing reviews when it opened in cinemas in June this year, Leave No Trace makes its arrival in stores on Monday (November 12th). Here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie star in the roles of Iraq veteran Will and his daughter Tom, alongside a cast that also includes Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey and Dana Millican.
And who's directing?
Debra Granik directs, working from a screenplay adapted from Peter Rock's novel by herself and Anne Rosellini, who also worked on Granik's 2010 movie Winter's Bone.
What's the plot?
Will and his teenage daughter Tom live an unusually isolated life in a self-built shelter deep in the woodland of Portland's largest national park, surviving largely on foraged food and making occasional trips into town to buy essential supplies. Will, it soon emerges, is a veteran of the Iraq war suffering from PTSD, making the small amounts of money he needs for supplies by selling his prescribed medication to other veterans.
While returning from one of their trips into the city, the pair are spotted by a jogger, who calls the police. Law enforcement officers are sent into the woods to search for them and eventually discover Will and Tom near their shelter, taking them into the care of social services.
Despite Tom's pastoral upbringing, social worker Jean (Millican) is surprised to learn that Tom is remarkably well-adjusted with intelligence beyond her years. Although it's clear that Tom has been well looked after, Jean tells her that it's illegal to live on public land and after being subjected to several tests, the pair are provided with a home on a tree farm in rural Oregon, where Will agrees to take up a job packaging pine trees while Tom begins to make new friends her own age.
Eventually however Will begins to find the company of others oppressive and insists that Tom follow him back into the woods, which she reluctantly does. The pair navigate to an abandoned cabin and begin to make a new home for themselves, but when Will goes out to find food and doesn't come back, Tom goes out to look for him, finding him unconscious at the bottom of a hill. Tom manages to get help from passers-by, but refuses to allow Will to be taken to hospital in case they are sent back to social services.
Instead, their rescuers take them back to their mobile home community while Will recovers, where Tom learns to enjoy life around others. When Will eventually recovers, he once again wants to set off into the woods, but Tom finds herself asking herself whether she and her father want the same out of life.
Does it deliver?
Everything about Granik's film is incredibly well measured, telling an unconventional coming-of-age story without appearing judgemental or sensationalist. Both Foster and McKenzie deliver outstanding performances and Granik's script never spoon-feeds the narrative to the viewer, relying instead on her leading pair's superb acting and her knack for visual storytelling to get her story across, making this highly emotive but compelling viewing.