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YNMS: Leave No Trace

Chris here. Now that the summer movie season has arrived (and earlier than ever) we're on the hunt for counterprogramming wherever we can find it. Enter film festival darling Leave No Trace, a drama about a father and daughter (Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie) struggling to reacclimate to society after living off the grid.

The film is director Debra Granik's narrative follow-up to the Oscar nominated Winter's Bone, which you will recall helped place none other than Jennifer Lawrence on the map. Trace debuted at Sundance and has been hitting regional festivals nonstop ever since, and will get another large platform when it plays Cannes' Directors Fortnight sidebar. That should build a whole bunch of word of mouth before the film arrives on June 29.

From the looks of the trailer, we're promised a film much less grim than how the film comes across on paper. Take a look and we'll break down the Yes No Maybe So...


  • Show of hands: anyone else here love crying? I'm beside myself.
  • Granik is operating on more than just melodrama here, with thriller elements and road movie tropes complicating the premise. Toss in some social mindfulness (post-war PTSD, homelessness, mental health) and we've got a lot to marinate over.
  • We're given more than one major plot turn here in this trailer, but it still avoids being one of those trailers that spoils the full narrative arc. I have to know if this family ends up okay.


  • They are leaning in hard on the Winter's Bone comparisons, especially the Oscar trajectory of Lawrence and the film. It's particularly odd considering how tonally disparate they appear, even with Granik at the helm. We remember Winter's Bone as more than just an Oscar nominee, maybe remind us what a solid movie it was too.
  • As great as Foster looks here, guys, we gotta get him back in roles that show his versatility. It's all blurring together, even if he usually delivers.


  • Again: the film has played a lot of festivals and earned good reviews... so why didn't it register stronger on our radar, particularly when this was an admittedly muted Sundance?
  • But as hard as they are trying to ram the second coming of Jennifer Lawrence into our rucksacks (and you can already tell we're dealing with a very different performer here, making the comparison extra lazy) McKenzie kills here. My tears don't lie.

For now, I'm an easy YES on what looks like a very affecting drama. Your thoughts?

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Reader Comments (13)

(whisper) I still need to see "Winter's Bone", and it's set in my home state, too. Bad film goer. /(whisper)

This does look good and solid, and Ben Foster is never boring to me. Kind of sexy intense too. I'm a YES.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Yes... I have always liked Foster.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commentergrrr

Ben Foster + Debra Granik = YES

Post-war PTSD + Homelessness + mental health = NO

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Saw this last week at a festival. It should be a YES on everyone's list. Despite some similarities to Winter's Bone (directorial/shot choices, use of music, rural setting, mid-adolescent daughter with father issues) and perhaps some advertising along those lines to push it in to the fray, it is a much different film. And Ben Foster is a revelation in this, showing his versatility as an actor (no super intense Stanley Kowalski antics here).

Granik is certainly a filmmaker to watch. I kept wondering which one of the extras in this film she would select as a subject for a documentary (a la Stray Dog) because there are several good choices.

A tip--be patient with this film. Urbanites may get bored with a long sequence in the beginning; campers and hikers will love it, especially the glorious Oregon forest. The pacing is slow-ish overall but worth the watch.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

If you don't want Post-war PTSD movies stop invading foreign countries.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSusan S.

I'm in.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Not really related, but... whoa, this movie is PG? So I'm guessing it won't be TOO heavy.

I'm not really a fan of the "wilderness people have it all figured out, and civilized people are all wrong" subgenre inhabited by "Captain Fantastic" and the like, so I hope it's more than that. The trailer looks promising.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGuestguestguest

anna paquin, keisha castle-hughes, emily barclay, now this girl - i'm beginning to suspect there must be a spookily-mature-young-actress factory somewhere in new zealand

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

A definitive YES for me. Ben Foster strikes a chord with me. He can move me, same as actresses like Sophia Loren or Marion Cotillard. I like the premise and ***POSSIBLE SPOILER it reminded me of the big decision that has to be made in "Running on Empty".***
McKensey looks solid.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Idk. After Captain Fantastic, the only actor I ever want to see raising children in the woods is Viggo Mortensen.

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHuj

"If you don't want Post-war PTSD movies stop invading foreign countries."

Susan S., you made me LOL!

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTheBoyFromBrazil

Let's see.... YES!!!!!

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Ben Foster is always worth watching

May 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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