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Leave No Trace (film)

Leave No Trace is a 2018 American drama film directed by Debra Granik and written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the book My Abandonment by Peter Rock.[2] The plot follows a veteran father with PTSD (Ben Foster) who lives in the forest with his young daughter (Thomasin McKenzie). It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released by Bleecker Street in the United States, on June 29, 2018. The film received universal critical acclaim, with praise for the performances of Foster and McKenzie, and, after Paddington 2, it is the second-most reviewed film to hold an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDebra Granik
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Debra Granik
  • Anne Rosellini
Based onMy Abandonment
by Peter Rock
Music byDickon Hinchliffe
CinematographyMichael McDonough
Edited byJane Rizzo
Distributed byBleecker Street
Release date
  • January 20, 2018 (2018-01-20) (Sundance)
  • June 29, 2018 (2018-06-29) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7.4 million[1]



Will, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Tom, in a public park inside Portland, Oregon. They live in almost total isolation, only entering town for occasional food and supplies. Will makes their money by selling his VA-issued painkillers to other veterans.

After Tom is accidentally spotted in the woods by a jogger, officers arrest them and place them into social services. They are given food and a house on a Christmas tree farm in rural Oregon, on the condition that Will abides by the rules of the home owner and social services. Will begrudgingly begins to work on the settlement packaging pine trees, while Tom interacts with local kids her age in a 4H club. Will feels oppressed by others' presence and tells Tom they are returning to the woods. She follows reluctantly.

Will and Tom catch a ride north with a long-haul trucker, who lets them out, at Will's direction, on the edge of trackless woods. They bushwhack in a direction Will expects to lead to an unoccupied cabin, but cold and darkness force them to build a makeshift tent to survive the night. The next day, they find an abandoned cabin and move in.

Will leaves to find food but does not return for some time. Tom walks out to look for him, eventually finding him unconscious at the bottom of a hill, presumably from a slip and fall. She gets help from some locals passing by, who take them back to their mobile home community. One of them suggests taking Will to a hospital, but Tom, knowing that going to a hospital could mean going back into social services, refuses. A local woman calls a friend of hers, a former Army medic (and fellow PTSD sufferer), who gets Will on the road to recovery. He also lends Will his own therapy dog to ease his mental adjustment to society.

Will and Tom stay in the community for some time while Will’s injuries heal. Tom likes this new home, and hopes that she and her father can stay there permanently. Will, however, continues to feel overwhelmed by social interaction and insists that they leave again. Tom protests this, telling him "the same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me". When Will leaves anyway, Tom says that she can not go with him this time, and needs to try to live a normal life. They tearfully hug and part ways.


  • Ben Foster as Will, Tom’s father
  • Thomasin McKenzie as Tom, Will’s daughter
  • Jeff Kober as Mr. Walters, a tree farm owner
  • Dale Dickey as Dale, the leader of the RV park
  • Dana Millican as Jean Bauer, Tom’s social worker
  • Derek Dresher as Larry, a man whom Will exchanges medications for money with
  • Isaiah Stone as Isaiah, a person whom Tom befriends



Principal photography took place during the spring of 2017 in Portland, Oregon.[3] Eagle Fern Park in Clackamas County was used for the main forest scenes.[4]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018.[5][6] Shortly after, Bleecker Street acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[7] It was released on June 29, 2018.[8]


Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 198 reviews, and an average rating of 8.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Leave No Trace takes an effectively low-key approach to a potentially sensationalistic story — and further benefits from brilliant work by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Gotham Awards November 26, 2018 Best Actor Ben Foster Nominated [11]
Breakthrough Actor Thomasin McKenzie Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society December 3, 2018 Best Supporting Actress Thomasin Mckenzie Nominated [12]
National Board of Review January 8, 2019 Breakthrough Performance Thomasin McKenzie Won [13]
Top Ten Independent Films Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 9, 2018 Best Director Debra Granik Won [14]
Best Actor Ben Foster Runner-up
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 13, 2019 Best Young Performer Thomasin McKenzie Pending [15]
Satellite Awards February 17, 2019 Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama Ben Foster Pending [16]
Best Adapted Screenplay Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini Pending
Best Independent Film Pending
Independent Spirit Awards February 23, 2019 Best Feature Anne Harrison, Linda Reisman and Anne Rosellini Pending [17]
Best Director Debra Granik Pending
Best Supporting Female Thomasin McKenzie Pending
San Diego Film Critics Society December 10, 2018 Best Picture Leave No Trace Won [18]
Breakthrough Artist Thomasin McKenzie Won
Best Director Debra Granik Won

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Leave No Trace (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  2. ^ Busch, Anita (February 22, 2017). "'My Abandonment' From 'Winter's Bone' Director Lands Financing From Bron, First Look". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  3. ^ Turnquist, Kristi (January 22, 2018). "Movies with Oregon roots get Sundance Film Festival buzzing". OregonLive. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  4. ^ Mohan, Marc (June 20, 2018). "Story of father and girl found living in Forest Park is now a movie". OregonLive. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 29, 2017). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils Full 2018 Features Lineup". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  6. ^ "Leave No Trace". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  7. ^ Hipes, Patrick (January 27, 2018). "Debra Granik's 'Leave No Trace' Lands At Bleecker Street – Sundance". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (April 26, 2018). "'Leave No Trace' From 'Winter's Bone' Director Debra Granik Bows First Trailer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  9. ^ "Leave No Trace (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "Leave No Trace Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  11. ^ Sharf, Zach (October 18, 2018). "2018 Gotham Awards Nominations: 'The Favourite' and 'First Reformed' Lead the Pack". IndieWire. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  12. ^ DFCS (November 30, 2018). "The 2018 Detroit Film Critics Society Awards Nominations". Detroit Film Critics Society. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  13. ^ Lewis, Hilary (November 27, 2018). "'Green Book' Named Best Film by National Board of Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "2018 Awards Nominees". International Press Academy. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  17. ^ Erbland, Kate (November 16, 2018). "2019 Independent Spirit Awards Nominees: 'Eighth Grade' & 'We the Animals' Lead". IndieWire. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  18. ^ "2018 San Diego Film Critics Society Award Winners". San Diego Film Critics Society. 2018-12-10. Retrieved 2018-12-10.

External linksEdit