“nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future”
An uneventful trek through the trees of America’s national parks that tried to combine Into the Wild and The Road without the writing talents of a Jon Krakauer or Cormac McCarthy. Writers these days seem content to leave things unsaid in hopes that the audience will fill in the missing pieces with their favorite interpretation. While some may embrace this tactic, I personally find it lazy.
Leave No Trace tells the tale of a father (Ben Foster) and daughter (Thomasin McKenzie – a potential rising star)—at first, seemingly poised to reject the modern life and to embrace the Lockean acquisition of property through the labour of their bodies and the work of their hands. And yet, at the first sign of comfort, the dynamics begins to shift and the resonating depth of the past for Foster is clearly the dominate force keeping him on track; while McKenzie, without the benefit of past trauma, is easily swayed away from the wilderness by linen sheets and air conditioning. There was so much opportunity to speak on the coalescence of nature, society, and the spirit of man in struggle between the two. Unfortunately, Debra Granik couldn’t be bothered to even have the characters scream out “society!” in disgust.
While it’s possible that the source material for Leave No Trace was better in print, it was soon to be clear that Granik was content to settle on an average script, as she did so well with Winter’s Bone. Both characters aimlessly, by their own admission, walking around like some jungle vagabonds living off the land without the seeming benefit of foresight to consider weather conditions.
Failing to use the elements as The Grey had done so well and having a boring script with no serious dialogue to explain the underlying motivation for the characters, all you have left is a seemingly stubborn father with traces of PTSD and a daughter whose tenuous familial connection is abandoned for domesticated luxuries. After Granik’s relative success with the Oscars, she is showing clear signs of future security.
DISCLAIMER: Review made have been skewed by the Plaza Theatre projector going out towards the end of the film.