Will and his 13 year old daughter Tom have lived in the forests of Portland, Oregon for years now. When they are found and then removed from the forest with social services attempting to return them to normal life.
Leave No Trace is a very impressive film managing to build up the suspense of why exactly they are living in the forest to begin with. This is in a public park as well, which is quite important really. The pair did not often head into the town only occasionally for food and other supplies. As it turns out Will is a veteran who served in the Iraq War and suffering very badly from PTSD. He makes money by selling the pain killers he receives from the Veterans Health Administration to other veterans. He is not the only one who has chosen to take himself out of society.
When they are found they are separated by social services who are very interested to know how Tom is doing and rule out any strange behaviour from Will towards her. She as it turns out is reading at a higher level than her age despite not attending school, but being taught by her father. Will is given different tests and assessments to complete and it appears as though he will eventually get the help they both very much need.
After being places in a small house is a very rural area and Will is given a job packaging trees it was never going to last very long especially with the helicopters sparking memories for him. It was a bit shame for Tom as she seemed to be enjoying having a real home and even started making friends. Suddenly one morning Will decides that he will then leave and Tom does not want to go but she follows her father anyway. As it turns out to be a good decision or he would have died without her.
On return to their camp in the park which has been destroyed they are off on a very different trek managing to catch a ride and move a bit further away. Out in the wilderness again and attempting a new start in a new area. The freezing cold and wet weather was never going to be a good thing when they eventually find an abandoned cabin which they move into. The ending is very bitter sweet but allows the pair to each get what they want and need, even if that means a big sacrifice.
The film is truly powerful and makes you think about different ways PTSD can effect someone who has been to war on return to a normal life. This is something that it seems is not easy at all, but that they are not given enough support for this transition to happen. Too many triggers and small moments that take them back to a horrible place and tougher times.
We aren’t given all of the answers to the questions that we develop while watching the film but I quite liked that about it. You could then draw your own conclusion not only about what happened next but what happened before as well. That is something I enjoy a lot more in films now, at one stage I always felt like I needed and wanted to know everything. That is not always going to be possible and allows you to create better or worse scenarios.
Thomasin McKenzie puts in a truly remarkable performance given her tender age when in this film and has a very good charm surrounding her character. Ben Foster was brilliant as well and he has become an actor I can truly rely on to put in a good performance in the past few years, his projects have been very strong and in not fully mainstream films. While we have a few supporting characters at different times they feel more like cameos as it really focuses on the life and relationship between the father and daughter pair who would do anything for one another.