Leave No Trace tactfully tells an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking story of the unconditional love shared between Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie). Foster and McKenzie deliver raw, tender, captivating and transcending performances. The bond between them isn’t only compelling, it is inspiring.
It is immediately evident that the actors and characters truly know and understand each other. Every look and gesture serves as a shorthand that speaks volumes. They are a marvel to watch and easily draw viewers into their world. Even if we don’t completely understand Will or know the details of his past, we are certain that he is a father who cherishes his little girl and wants to do right by her.
Will and Tom live an isolated and relatively peaceful existence on the grounds of an Oregon state park. They grow their own food and make occasional grocery trips to gather supplies and nourishment they can’t find in the woods. They clearly enjoy each other’s company. They laugh, play chess, read books and hone their survivalist skills. The only stress they seem to experience comes from their fear of getting caught, so they take extra precautions and even run drills to cover their tracks. They have literally spent their lives leaving no trace behind and they’ve managed to steer clear of the authorities, until now.
What is so fascinating about this story is that Will and Tom are consistently met with care and understanding. The innocence and sincerity of their relationship are recognized by everyone they encounter. The struggles that we see them face aren’t societal, rather they are internal.
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