'Leave No Trace' is about the relationship between a girl and her father. It's a patient movie and a thorough one. It takes its time unveiling the details of their relationship and their lives.
Dad (Ben Foster, gripping) suffers from PTSD from his time in the military. He cannot function in society, so he chooses to live in the forest. His 13-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie, a revelation), lives with him.
Though life in the forest provides its challenges-Tom is growing and is often hungry-the two live happily. As Tom says, they "didn't need to be rescued," but living on public land is illegal. They're brought in and assigned to indoor housing so they can re-acclimate themselves with society.
While Tom thrives, her dad struggles. He cannot handle this lifestyle anymore. The strength of their bond is tested, and it keeps them together as they navigate unfamiliar and uncomfortable terrain.
Both actors are terrific-serious and subtle. The whole movie is subtle. There isn't much dialogue, but the subtext says a lot. Director Debra Granik operates with a light touch that lets events unfold without forcing anything upon her audience.
Her film style simply presents moments and allows viewers to actively participate in them. Nothing is shoved in your face. It's up to you to engage, so you can take away from this movie as much or as little as you choose.
This is unequivocally a theater movie. It's not meant to be half-watched on an airplane. To experience it in full-and you should do this-go to a theater and really pay attention and think along with the movie. It's a rewarding experience that gives a lot back, as long as you give a little first.