“I will be true to you. Whatever comes.”
A deeply human film from director Mélanie Laurent that captures those stolen moments of happiness before the torrential depravity of man washes away any semblance of the divine. A film about the essential beauty of truth and reconciliation. About the still corners of our competence as humans to choose good over evil. About family and the elastic bond of memory. About sacrifice and the reckless greed of a fallen system bent on transactional relationships.
Galveston is a combinations of The Florida Project and You Were Never Really Here. It’s about Ben Foster, who runs errands for a degenerate crime boss, and his near escape after his boss tries to get him killed. Foster finds the kidnapped Elle Fanning, who he takes across the state of Texas (i.e. Galveston) in hopes of delivering her to a better place where she can live out the rest of her days in safety. He believes he’s dying and thus finds in Fanning the last investment that he’s going to make. Fanning has with her a daughter that she delivered from an abusive step father who raped Fanning as a child. This colors her world; a harrowing and saddening demonstration of the consequences of abuse to the future self-worth perception of another. Fanning and Foster develop a platonic and moving relationship like father and daughter. They move together pain after pain, finding pockets of comfort in each others mutual worldly contempts. When things seem like they would find comfort; and, joy would take its place between the corners of their mutual affections, the reality of fallen humanity returns stealing the lights of their collective vision.
The movie transitions from bliss to paradise lost and into a profound and brilliantly shot juxtaposition between the turmoil of the present storm and the vibrant, translucent memory kept hidden away to sustain us one more day. In the end, the few pieces that Foster could salvage after all is lost are given to another or left on the shore to serve as illumination when daylight expires.
“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.