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Movie Review: “Leave No Trace,” Directed by Debra Granik, 119 minutes

leave-no-trace

A man and his daughter live in the national forest. Occasionally, they go into Portland, Oregon, to visit the veterans hospital and buy a few groceries. But then they go back into hiding in the woods. It takes a criminal-sniffing police dog to find them.

It’s the girl’s story. She gets most of the camera’s attention and nearly all the lines. She’s the one undergoing changes. Her silently suffering father mostly just endures. It takes real acting to do that. There are a few other people in the cast, but they have small roles with little effect on the audience — even though they clearly affect the girl.

I saw the film with a friend who backpacks. He was carefully watching all of the camping gear and at-home-with-nature operations that the daughter and father carried out. He approved. “Leave no trace,” he explained, is a slogan that campers and backpackers use to mean that they clean up after themselves. In this movie, it means a lot more.

I didn’t realize until afterward that director Granek had also given us “Winters Bone,” the  excellent film that launched the career of young Jennifer Lawrence. There are a lot of similarities. Both are really worthwhile films.

Just to top it off, there were three — count ’em three — different union logos in the last frame: Teamsters, IATSE, and Sag-Aftra.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM central time every Saturday.  They podcast two weeks under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.