Leave No Trace was the movie I passed on at the Sydney Film Festival, cause there was just too much on my list. Leave No Trace was the movie I hadn’t really seen any marketing for, so I actively avoided trailers and blurbs before heading in, just so I could go in knowing as little as possible. I like that, sometimes. Leave No Trace hit me, like a tonne of bricks, and left me teary-eyed at the simple fact that the movie exists in this world. The last movie to do that to me was Zootopia, except this movie isn’t a Disney Animated flagship title, and it’s not going to get the attention it deserves.
Leave No Trace is currently one of only 5 films in 2018 that have managed to attain a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. Brought to you by director Debra Granik who’s probably best known for her last narrative feature: Winter’s Bone. Granik has a delicate touch, a gentle but powerful tool when you really, really want to zone in on a character and focus on their story. For the first half hour or so of Leave No Trace, I was comfortably sitting in on the ride, sipping a glass of red, maybe checking the time once or twice because whilst the pacing felt apt, it wasn’t the fastest moving movie. But then it just hits you, like an emotional freight train – and nothing in particular either. Just in the embrace of a father and daughter, and I realised then how invested I was in these characters.
These characters are portrayed just so perfectly by Thomasin McKenzie (Lucy Lewis Can’t Lose, Shortland Street) and Ben Foster (Hell or High Water, 3:10 to Yuma). Both of whom bring a startling truthfulness and elegant honesty to their work, which at no point feels like acting and entirely envelopes you in these character’s stories. Leave No Trace is not formulaic in its approach, where it specifically gives each character a moment to shine, but both of these two have their moments to shine, in a thoroughly organic manner. It’s the story of a father and a daughter. A man and his child. Two people, making their way in the world the best way they know how.
Now, I know I’m being vague, I’m telling you absolutely nothing about this film in terms of plot, and I want you to do the same. Don’t go looking for the trailer, don’t go googling a synopsis – but seek this movie out. It deserves your eyeballs, your money, and much, much more recognition than it’s going to get. With one small story, and two superbly crafted characters, Granik says so much about our world. About consumerism, capitalism, elitism, patriotism, militarism, social constructs, I could go on, but I’ll stop.
I don’t want to oversell this movie, or set you up for any sort of gargantuan expectations. This is a very small film, but crafted so expertly, and with such a finger on the pulse of the current social political climate – this is the film middle America needs to see. This is the film that the social-media induced polarised political viewpoints of the masses need, the film that those disillusioned with the current state of Australian politics needs to see, this is a film worth seeing. Yet, I can only find it on one screen in Sydney. I’m presuming it’s also only showing at one or two screens in major cities across the country.
That said, seek this movie out. Work for it. Look for it. Find it. It won’t get the audience attention it deserves, it may not get the awards attention it deserves, but by god is it the movie we should be watching. And if you can’t, if you don’t have the time to support this film in it’s very limited release, then remember this name: Leave No Trace, and when it pops by in your Netflix or Stan cue, when you scroll past it on Foxtel, when it undoubtedly pops up in “newly discovered” or “indie favourites” on iTunes, get it. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put your phone away, and comfortably allow Granik’s masterful storytelling to wash over you. Enjoy a near perfect moving picture, complete with a fluffy bunny named Chainsaw, and a little pup called Willie Nelson.
Leave No Trace is showing in cinemas now, across the country. Find it.
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