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Eight years after her last fictional feature (2010’s Winter’s Bone) introduced the world to Jennifer Lawrence, writer-director Debra Granik returns with Leave No Trace, a pensive, thorny character study about a father (Ben Foster) and daughter (newcomer Thomasin McKenzie) living off the grid, illegally, in the national forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Once again teaming with co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini and cinematographer Michael McDonough (this time on an adaptation of Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment), Granik details the ins and outs of her characters’ isolated circumstances while plumbing the trauma that’s driven Foster’s dad to retreat from society—and the tension that develops between him and his daughter, who finds it difficult to assume her father’s grievances (and, thus, lifestyle). There’s no judgment here, just empathetic curiosity about unique lives situated on society’s fringe—as well as some fantastic acting from a silently tormented Foster and a confused and brave McKenzie in a sterling debut performance
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