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Critics reviews
Leave No Trace
Debra Granik United States, 2018
There is a poetry to these films, and they provide a sense of sustenance and succor in increasingly uncertain times.
December 28, 2018
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Like Captain Fantastic from a couple of years ago, but with much more art, grace, and a sense of actual danger — perhaps because it is set among the homeless, perhaps because it was made by a woman — Leave No Trace restates the male Gen-X narrative of protecting children from the outside world and their eventual reintegration into it.
December 17, 2018
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Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone) doesn’t make a new movie very often, but when she does, she makes it right. There’s not an unneeded glance, frame, or line of dialogue in this story.
December 13, 2018
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By ultimately sidelining ecological questions, Leave No Trace may have secured broad appeal; but in doing so, the film misses the mark – ethically and politically – in presenting a contemporary narrative of retreat. The film’s redeeming critical force, however, comes from the way it centres marginality and presents the question of care.
July 20, 2018
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It offers a stark commentary on homelessness and the terrible human cost of America’s wars. What makes it a great and moving film, though, is the extraordinary connection between Will and Tom, who are as quiet and direct with each other in their isolation as the forest is with them.
July 11, 2018
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By keeping you up close and personal with both characters, Leave No Trace is empathetic to its core. There’s nothing show-offy or grandstanding in the camera work, because it’s not necessary; even in the most thrilling moments, the film is operates off of the adrenaline of Tom and Will.
July 09, 2018
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Granik continues to refine a style of tranquil intensity. The film’s images have a rapt and pared-down power, with emphases that are never quite where you expect them to be. . . . Granik has a formidable talent for making points without appearing to, burying social riffs within a dense framework of texture, which is to say that formalism and performance often transcend politics.
July 04, 2018
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If you’re torn about reading Leave No Trace as an expansion upon or apologia for Winter’s Bone, versus letting the current work speak for itself, you’re already on the right thematic frequency for this potent, poignant two-hander. To what extent and at what cost, the film asks, does the old suffocate the new? What is gained and lost by demanding autonomy, even from that which is deeply known and dearly loved?
July 03, 2018
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In the same way that Winter’s Bone showcased Jennifer Lawrence’s talents, Leave No Trace presents a potentially star-making turn from its young star Harcourt McKenzie: she is excellent – watchful, sensitive and ambiguously aged. . . . At pivotal points – when she catches herself in the act of wishing for a life not ruled by her father’s paranoiac regime – she seems to stretch and grow older before our eyes.
June 29, 2018
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In the person of Tom, we are forced to reckon not only with a particular generational divide, but with a deeply American contradiction. Granik has exhibited a depth of feeling for these characters that is fair-minded and gentle, offering a nation’s most broken and isolated progeny a safe fictional harbor in her film.
June 29, 2018
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Granik’s film is impressive because it enacts these contradictions in a very concrete way: we’re acutely conscious of the very tactile world the pair live in, of the dampness of the undergrowth, the beating of rain on their tent roof, the reassuring dry warmth of the houses they find themselves occupying.
June 29, 2018
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“Leave No Trace” is, at times, heartbreaking, but it’s also filled with glimpses of almost casual human kindness, throwaway moments of good will and inclusion piercing through what could be the bleakest of tales. Granik shows great insight into the struggles of those who choose to “opt out,” those who just want to be left alone, those who literally can’t “fit in” to the larger world.
June 29, 2018
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The tension between them is both wrenching and beautiful, and that’s key to the movie’s power. . . . Granik has a gift for finding the right face to tell the story, and she’s done it again in Leave No Trace. McKenzie tells us everything about Tom with very few lines of dialogue.
June 28, 2018
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It asks bold and difficult questions about how we can live with other people, animals and nature, and it is frank about its inability to provide any one answer.
June 28, 2018
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It does many things at once, some blatantly and some subtly, some simplistically and some deeply. It’s an often unsatisfying, frustrating, and narrow movie, yet it opens out, at times, to profoundly moving vistas that stretch far beyond the immediate scope of the drama.
June 28, 2018
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Ms. Granik employs a restraint that worked so well in her documentary “Stray Dog.” She looks hard and by looking encourages us to see the beauty — and meaning — in the everyday: the velvety moss on a tree, the opalescent shimmer of a spider web and the tenderness that envelops Will and Tom, sustaining them and a story that occasionally drifts.
June 28, 2018
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I was reminded often of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic parenting thriller The Road; I was also sometimes reminded of Manchester by the Sea, with its narrative of a man unable to shake his demons. I suspect I’ll be haunted by this picture for quite some time. Granik films with subtlety and quiet grace, but Leave No Trace explodes in the mind.
June 25, 2018
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