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Leave No Trace (2018) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

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

  • Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The film is directed by Debra Granik from a script adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini.

  • After living off the grid in Oregon for years, traumatized military veteran Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), are picked up by social services and forced to integrate back into society. While Tom begins to connect with others and thrive, Will struggles and attempts to avoid his demons by escaping back into the wild. Directed by Debra Granik. Based on the novel "My Abandonment" by Peter Rock.

  • Will, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Tom, in a public park outside 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 begins school and 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.


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Synopsis

  • Will is a veteran with PTSD. Homeless by choice and withdrawn from society, his life is both comforted and complicated by the fact that he is raising his daughter as a single dad. When the curtain goes up we find them living in the woods near Portland, Oregon. His daughter, Tom, is about 14 and doesn't remember her mom. They tend a small garden, cook mushrooms, and keep their canvas shelter patched against leaks. Once a month they trek into Portland to shop for necessaries with Will's disability check. Will teaches her all the survival skills he knows, including how to bug out and hide so as not to get "burned" by the park rangers for squatting on public lands. Nevertheless Tom is seen one day and they soon get burned and turned over to Social Services. We cringe with Will as he sits down to take the intake exam, 435 questions to assess his psychological state. He tries but stops answering when the computer-voiced questions get too close. On the other hand Tom does well as the lady social worker soon discovers that she not only reads better than most kids her age but that Will has been a loving and responsible parent in spite of the circumstances. The social workers reunite them and place them in a vacant house where Will is expected to work at the local Christmas Tree farm. We smile as he is instructed on how to prune a young pine to a perfect point on top to meet the expectations of California customers. Meanwhile Tom meets an older boy who is framing his own tiny house. She takes a liking to his pet rabbit as he describes the floor plan of his trailer-sized home. He invites her to the local 4H club where she learns some rabbit handling skills. Whether Tom feels any attraction to this nice young man is totally left up to our imagination. (Happily there are no sexual encounters anywhere in this film apart from the concern of the various strangers they meet as to Will's intentions toward Tom.) Tom likes it in their new home but Will is restless. He says that this is not really our house, our food, our furnishings, much less our life. You have to cooperate, he explains, like showing up at church, to keep on their good side. One day he tells Tom to pack only the stuff she needs and they make a break for it, eventually hitching a ride with a trucker who drops them off at a logging road up in Washington State. They spend a freezing night covered in branches and find a vacant cabin the next morning, where they break in and help themselves to some canned food. Will leaves Tom in the cabin while he heads downhill to find a store to get more groceries, but he never makes it. The next morning Tom finds him injured and unconscious by a stream. She gets help from a family that is camping nearby where a former Army medic nurses Will back to health. The family provides them with a trailer to live in for the time being in their little settlement of old, run down RVs. Tom likes this new found community of fellow misfits and refugees from civilization and learns some beekeeping skills from the wife of the medic who tended Will's foot . Tom helps her fill a rucksack with supplies for someone who lives alone in the hills as a hermit. Periodically the woman hangs the rucksack from a tree and comes back later to retrieve the empty bag. Will is determined to leave this little community as soon as his foot heals. When the day finally comes and Tom finds him packing, she confronts him with the realization that whatever is wrong with him is not wrong with her and that she no longer wants to keep on picking up stakes and obediently following him to the next camp. Will realizes the truth of what she says, but knows that for himself things will never change. They part ways. We know that Tom will be all right but feel sorry that Will, a prisoner of his tortured memories, chooses a hermit's existence. The curtain comes down as Tom hangs a rucksack from the tree one day, presumably for the hermit father she will always love.

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