Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace


A father and his 13-year-old daughter are living in an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.

Dove Review

Leave No Trace opens with a traumatized veteran, Will (Ben Foster), and his young teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), living off the grid for years in the largest urban park in America, aptly named Forest Park, located in Portland, Oregon.

It becomes evident that Will’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the culprit that both characters must manage as he is obsessed with staying on the move, never setting up camp in one place for too long. It is fascinating to watch this duo navigate homelessness in a peaceful and accepting manner, albeit Will’s persistence to keep his young teenage daughter by his side in his anxious battle with isolation is challenging for the viewer to sympathize with. He rejects what is seemingly best for Tom after being essentially rescued and provided for by social services by escaping back into the wilderness to brave elements that are increasingly harsh the further north they travel.

This quiet story with meager dialogue becomes more unsettling as Tom, who is emotionally vulnerable throughout, wants to stay in one place and build a life. Her inner struggle is apparent, for she is devoted to her father, even as she calls attention that “his struggle is not hers.” The choices made in the end serve to honor the individual with compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

The Dove Take

This film grapples with poignant relationship dynamics surrounding issues of parenting, homelessness, discrimination, and mental illness, but it does so in a genuine and sensitive manner. Leave No Trace is awarded the Dove-Approved Seal for 12+.

Content Description

Faith: None
Integrity: Though the father makes questionable choices regarding his child-rearing, such as depriving his daughter from a normal, social, and scholastic upbringing, he is highly invested in her well-being, and his love for her is evident. She is, likewise, an obedient and loyal daughter. They are kind to others as well, and all other characters exhibit helpful and compassionate behavior.
Sex: None
Language: None
Violence: None
Drugs: Though no drugs are seen being used, there is one short scene where Will sells his VA medication for profit as they have no other means of survival.
Nudity: None
Other: Will takes a bad fall and is seriously injured, and Tom experiences extreme discomfort due to exposure to the elements. Living on public land, they stay on the move in order to defy capture by the authorities. Fear and anxiety are often present.


Company: Unknown
Director: Debra Granik
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 109 min.
Reviewer: Shelley K.