Leave No Trace (2018) Poster

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10/10
One of my all-time favorite films, but it might not be yours.
paul-59122 October 2018
One of my all-time favorite films, but it might not be yours. This is the first film I've actually reviewed after 10+ years on IMDb. Clearly some people are unimpressed by this film and others think it's amazing; I am in the latter category.

I'm also someone who, when I was a kid, fantasized about what it would be like to live off the land and away from people. This is a truly unique film in that it does not spell it out for you; does not have a position; it does not have villains; It is willing to let you make your own conclusions. Clearly this bothers some people, as does the pace. Speaking for myself, I was never bored. I was riveted from beginning to end. I had never seen the trailer, and I would recommend not seeing the trailer.

A main complaint from those who don't like it seems to be there are enough bad people; I actually found this refreshing. I don't meet many bad, evil people in my every day life; most people are pretty cool, I find. I actually felt the fundamental premise of the movie was realistic and I appreciated that it was willing to skip ahead and not spell out every beat. Or fill in the backstory. A good film can choose the story it wants to tell and does not need to fill in every interstitial space or to mimic the way things would necessarily unfold in the real world. I suppose it could be a realistic criticism that things could never quite happen this way, but it certainly did not bother me. I thought this film portrays people - and I mean all the characters in the film, not just the primary two - that are too rarely portrayed in film, but do exist in our world.

As everyone seems to agree, the cinematography and acting are extraordinary. I also thought the story was unique and refreshing, and for me at least, the pacing was perfect. I believe I benefited from having no idea where it was going to go, so I would recommend skipping the trailer and seeing it for whatever reason compels you. Perhaps just the beautiful, green forests of the Pacific Northwest.
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8/10
an engaging and touching tale that leaves a warm glow
CineMuseFilms10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Framing a story through the outlier's point of view is a self-reflective device that makes us to look at ourselves through the eyes of the marginalised other. It usually adopts a single perspective but Leave No Trace (2018) is as multi-layered as a Russian doll. Homelessness, poverty, single-parenting, post-traumatic stress disorder, and life off-the-grid are just some of the themes woven into this finely balanced film.

The ruggedly beautiful opening scenes show a father and daughter appearing to be camping in the wilderness. Silent but for the sound of nature, they forage, taste nature's bounty, and communicate by gesture. The father, Will (Ben Foster), is a war veteran with chronic PTSD and cannot stand the confinement of conventional accommodation. His teenage daughter, androgynously named Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), has been raised by Will since infancy and is as adept at chess and reading literature as she is at hunting in the wild. They are close, sleep together for warmth, and the forest is their home. That is until a walker spots them and police are brought in.

Immediately applying labels like homeless and potential abusive relationship, the authorities subject them to the kind of interrogation that presumes the worst. When suspicion lifts, Will is praised for how well he has raised Tom but they are not permitted to return to their forest home. Social service accommodation is found, but Will soon flees again and Tom must follow. The cycle is repeated until the rapidly maturing Tom must face either a life running from Will's war torments or claim her independence, put down roots, and let him go.

This film works on all levels. The cinematography has a docu-drama feel, with hand-held camera-work that intimately observes the father and daughter bond. This is pitched perfectly because of the understated authenticity of performance by Foster and McKenzie. It must have been tempting to dramatize the veteran's trauma but here it is expressed entirely through Foster's eyes and silent stare. McKenzie consumes her role, emerging from the cocoon of adolescence to a butterfly, vibrant, caring, and grounded in self-belief. The dynamic between them is the scaffold that raises the story beyond expectations.

It would be challenging to find another film that could more appropriately carry the 'hybrid genre' label. Strands of adventure story, a coming of age tale, a road trip, and a drama, are all present but none dominate. Nor does the film offer an easy solution to helping people like Tom and Will. This is an engaging and touching tale that leaves a warm glow.
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Best movie of the summer and maybe the year.
jdesando13 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"I don't have the same problem you have." Tom (Thomasin McKenzie)

Will (Ben Foster) in Leave No Trace has PTSD from Iraq, and daughter Tom is so bright as to make you want her for your daughter. No, she doesn't have his hang up about living in society although they are both willingly living as survivalists in the Oregon wilderness.

As artistic minimalism goes, this film is a poster child. Their life is spent making shelter and foraging for dinner, although they do go into town now and then to buy provisions for her robust appetite. Only when they are discovered living illegally on public land do they have to deal with the outside world.

Although this splendidly understated film has less catastrophe and meanness than director Debra Granik's triumphant Winter's Bone, it does have another Jennifer Lawrence in the making in actress Thomasin. It also has a view of the underclass we rarely see: In this film they are not repulsive hillbillies but rather different sets of a kindly lower middle class ready to help father and daughter survive the onslaught of social agencies sincerely trying to keep them from being separated.

In other words, few bad guys appear, even among the state's bureaucrats. It is refreshing to see fellow Americans, disadvantaged themselves, selflessly helping this needy couple. In an age of nastiness, this film gently reintroduces us to a kinder, gentler society and a memorably self-sufficient and humble father and daughter.

Because of the authentic surroundings and excellent acting, as well as themes of isolation and inclusion, Leave no trace may in fact leave one at Oscar time.

"We can still think our own thoughts." Will
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8/10
A good war film
lastangrypolarbear17 June 2018
This is a story with no antagonist, only the harm caused to one loving father's mind by his military service. It is focussed and deep, showing how some things can't be fixed, and some things have to change. The performances are strong, with the tension always threatening to shatter the veneer of control and love.
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9/10
Leave No Trace poignantly flourishes in depicting a dynamically engrossing family bond.
TheMovieDiorama5 July 2018
Indie dramas just keep getting better as the years go by. The freedom to be experimental whilst conveying a captivating story makes for a vastly enthralling cinematic experience than the average Hollywood drama. It's no different here, with director Granik perfectly balancing emotional heft with relentless drama. A father and his young daughter live in isolation within a shrouded urban forest, where one mistake leads them into being found by the local authorities. The eloquence and minimalism in Granik's screenplay allows the story to be told visually. The peaceful environment and rural American culture juxtapose the bustling highways of urban society. Yet they complement each other to create an ecosystem for humanity. The same is applied to this relationship. The father, fearful of being discovered and conforming to the aristocracy of modern civilisation, contrasts with his daughter who yearns for environmental stability. After experiencing a glimpse of normality, she envies them. However, it's the bond between them that truly captivated me. They never argue. They never bicker. They understand one another. Mistakes are forgiven, opportunities are seized. It was honestly beautiful to watch. Foster (who is becoming rather commendable with his work) and McKenzie were sensational together, feeding emotions through just their eyes. Granik utilises plenty of horizonal techniques to illustrate these two characters amongst the overwhelmingly luscious foliage. McDonough's cinematography was gorgeous, bountiful of green filters and natural lighting. My only gripe is the lack of backstory, particularly with the mother, which would've elevated the emotional response for the story's conclusion. But what I really appreciate is the unobtrusive approach to what could've been a sensationalistic plot, and the lack of pretentiousness further cements Granik as a mature director who really should be directing more films. A near perfect drama with outstanding performances that deserves your undivided attention.
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7/10
A Deep and Moving Father-Daughter Story
Jared_Andrews25 July 2018
Don't walk in to see this movie expecting any action and excitement. That's not what this is.

'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.
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8/10
What Good Will Hunting did for BPD, this movie does for PTSD...
minervanz28 August 2018
An exquisitely poignant movie about a father and daughter trying to live off the grid in the woods out of town.

Ben Foster gives a truly amazing, understated performance as Will, the "psychologically damaged" father back from the un-named horrors of war, who has lost his wife and mother to his daughter, Tom. Thomasin McKenzie as Tom, brings a gentle, caring teenager, supporting her father, who is trying to retreat from the world into the woods.

The film is beautifully shot, and the pair are very believable as they hide out from the authorities who want her "in school" and him in some gainful employment, separating and further traumatising both of them while doing the "right thing". But Will, with his unseen, unacknowledged PTSD, is unable to settle into "normal" suburban life, and needs to run constantly from his demons from the past.

Ultimately there is a poignant decision to be made, as daughter and father can no longer walk the same pathways. But this movie has such depth, and such compassion for its characters, and their struggles, that even though you know that a climax must come, it still takes you by surprise. Wonderful acting from the supporting cast, including a cameo by Isaiah Stone, adding complexity to Tom's choices... But modern life cannot accommodate outliers, those who won't conform.

This movie broke my heart, little by little, but has become my favourite indie movie for 2018. If you open your heart and mind, you will find it memorable. Oh, and no sex, drugs or rock and roll, nor animals were harmed - if you like your drama real and personal, and with no car chases or shoot 'em ups, this one is a winner!
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7/10
An excellent naturalistic drama, with outstanding dialogue and some great performances to boot.
domtaylor7 July 2018
Although it feels generally slow-moving and takes a while to really get going, 'Leave No Trace' is a thoroughly compelling, realistic drama that expertly explores the father-daughter dynamic. The exposition-less script is refreshing, allowing the audience to actually think for themselves about the lives of the characters and how they got to where they are at the beginning of the film. All of the dialogue feels entirely natural (a testament to both the screenwriters and the actors) and this, combined with the subtle, yet nuanced direction, gives the film an almost documentary type feel, which fully compels the viewers to engage with the lives and central relationship of the protagonists. 7/10.
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9/10
One of the best movies of the year, period
paul-allaer14 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"Leave No Trace" (2018 release; 110 min.) brings the story of an army veteran with PTSD (Will) and his 13 or 14 yr. old daughter (Tom). As the movie opens, we get to know Will and Tom, who are living off the grid, literally, in a large park near Portland. They are chopping wood, tending to the fire, fixing a bite to eat. No mention of where the mother is. Then some days later, disaster strikes: Tom is spotted by someone, who call the park rangers and Portland Police. It's not long before Will and Tom are located and taken in for further questioning (apparently it's illegal to "live" on public parks). At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the long overdue return from writer-director Debra Granik, who some years ago brought the outstanding "Winter's Bone" (Granik did an under-the-radar documentary between these 2 movies). Here Granik looks at the impact of PTDS on an army veteran and his daughter. The veteran battles demons in his sleep, and restlessness when he's awake, causing them to move from part to park. This is a plot-heavy movie, so I really don't want to say much more than that. Just watch. Ben Foster brings an accomplished performance as Will. But the show is really stolen by the astonishing (and breakout) performance by relative newcomer Thomasin McKenzie as Tom, the daughter who wants to support so badly. Surely this is just the beginning that we've seen of her, and I can't wait to see what she'll do next. Last but certainly not least, the movie's photography (in Oregon) is colorful and lush, just eye-candy. Please note that this movie is rated PG, but in my opinion should not be viewed by kids younger than, say, 12. Not because there is anything "wrong" in the movie, but I guarantee you that young kids will simply be bored. So PG rated, but not really a kids film.

"Leave No Trace" opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Saturday matinee screening where I saw this at was PACKED, I am very happy to report (the 95 degree weather nay have had something to do with that). "Leave No Trace" is one of those rare movies that is 100% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it is that good! If you are in the mood for a wonderful character study of an army veteran with PTSD with his young daughter, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion/ For me, "Leave No Trace" is a WINNER all the way.
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8/10
Meditative journey through the Pacific Northwest
jmkosinski8 July 2018
The first 30 minutes of this film, I would rate as a 9 or even a 10. We are immersed in the soft, jade glow of the Pacific rainforest, and the quiet intimate life of two people who barely need language to communicate. Their relationship with nature is practical and intuitive rather than sentimental and abstract. When the characters do visit the city, it feels cold and alien, full of possibilities but also dangers.

Both actors are amazing, especially the young girl. For a young actress to express such mixed emotions clearly is very impressive. The movie has a very rooted sense of place. I was at a Q & A with the director and it was clear she made a very thorough effort to choose locations and actors (professional and amateurs) with an eye for realism.

I only knock this story because the arc is fairly predictable. For an American movie there is remarkably little plot and no villain or hero. It was hard to decide between a 7 and an 8.
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10/10
One of the best films I've ever seen.
kbg21531 July 2018
A beautiful relationship between her and her damaged father. Did not feel like a movie. I felt that I was living their life. So emotional.
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7/10
Remarkably unpredictable and, essentially, exposition-less; an affecting and engaging picture.
Pjtaylor-96-13804430 June 2018
'Leave No Trace (2018)' is, remarkably, never predictable or on-the-nose. Instead, it soon settles into its own slow rhythm to provide an experience that's refreshing in its ability to show instead of tell. Often, it refrains from saying anything at all, especially during the moments in which it actually speaks volumes. This is a technique - or, rather, way of thinking - it uses to cut to the heart of its scenes and provide some incredibly raw emotional beats. Even in its 'loudest' of moments, it feels marvellously gentle and is brought to life with a steady, self-assured hand. The film is extremely engaging and has an astute ability to render its core relationship with a wonderfully tender realism, examining its father and daughter duo - as well as the former's traumatic background and scarred mental-state - brilliantly and not always blatantly. This, again, plays into its pretty much perfect 'show, don't tell' mentality and allows you to piece together what's going on behind our core players' eyes. It allows for an empathetic and emotive picture that impacts you in essentially every sequence, especially those towards its devastating yet somewhat inevitable end. Overall, the movie is actually highly enjoyable, and affecting, because of this emotional impact. 7/10
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8/10
What is Home?
ThomasDrufke2 August 2018
Perhaps no other film in 2018 has exemplified true human emotion like Leave no Trace. It's immensely impressive how well director Debra Granik manages to make these characters feel like real people, even if you don't know anyone who lives out in the woods full time. I mean really, the location isn't necessarily important, what's important is that they have a home and that home was taken from them while another home is forced upon them. That's essentially the central part of the film, what's home to you may not be home to everyone. Ben Foster is unsurprisingly brilliant as is his daughter in the film, Thomasin McKenzie, who most certainly draws comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence (another Granik alum). Incredibly powerful and impeccably visceral, Leave no Trace is undoubtedly a film that will leave a trace come Oscar season.

8.0/10
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2/10
Disappointed
ohajee23 July 2018
At some point you can't keep the audience in the dark for the entire movie. While most movies have a beginning, middle, and end, it seemed this had a beginning, beginning and beginning. It just never really picked up.

I'm shocked IMDB and rotten tomatoes had such a positive rating on this.

I appreciated the cinematography and acting, but towards the end i was hoping for the movie to finally end.
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7/10
This a good movie but not an easy movie
beattygallery-1279316 June 2018
The Sydney Film Festival today 16 June 18.

The reason I picked this movie - the memorable 'Winters Bone' by Debra Granik.

'Leave No Trace' continues Graniks theme of disconnected, broken people and communities worn down by war, drugs, poverty, poor health, failing services, disempowerment etc

A strange, intimate world brings together mental health, the beauty of nature, youth, struggles to present normality in abnormal circumstances, strange religion, engaging animals, concrete, christmas trees & doomed .love

Juxtaposition of nature & urban blight is too simplistic. Dig a bit deeper.

Not an easy movie but highly recommended.
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9/10
Small exquisite touches
jamiesonspencer20 July 2018
Rather than pen a hefty set of paragraphs, let me point out some brilliant but tiny artistic touches that compensate for what some viewers might find the movie's slow action. I do not think they rise to the level of genuine spoilers: a) the name given to one of the 4H club's rabbits, b) "Tom's" subtle but poignant facial gestures, and c) a pair of wordless sounds she and her father use for secret communication. (As with much fine art, less is more...)
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2/10
Such a waste!
Stark_193 October 2018
The acting of Tom was exceptional. I enjoyed the first hour and never got bored of the long silenced scenes. Until... Well until I couldn't get it anymore. No motives are explained, and therefore lost attachment to the characters. I wish more explanation was shown. Such a waste because I am sure I will forget about this movie very, very soon.
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3/10
Great subtle storytelling, but I found the events to be unrealistic.
drewpilcher-3951521 July 2018
I really liked the style of this movie. Nothing is ever explained, and little is even said, but the plot is sort of inferred from peoples actions. The atmosphere is also perfect, very vivid in it's capture of different environments.

Now here's why I didn't like it very much. This is going to be kind of a spoiler, so stop reading here if you haven't seen it.

So, the *storytelling* is great, but I found the actual story to be unrealistic. Every time the characters encounter the outside world, even the grittier parts of it, they find it to be warm and welcoming. I think the writers did this so as not to distract from the real reason the father went off-grid; but it just comes off as totally contrived. Like it's one thing to have some unusual characters, but its just everybody. Nobody behaves in a realistic way; everyone's just ..too nice.

My second problem is with the girl. Supposedly she's been raised in the woods for a long time, with just her dad and a couple of damp textbooks; but inexplicably whenever she finds herself in a social situation, shes perfectly well adjusted and shows no difficulty. It's a feel good moment when the girl meets a boy or an old woman, and just instantly makes a connection with them and has a nice conversation; but really?? Being in the woods for years had no effect on her?? It just doesn't make any sense.

Basically they portray this totally intense situation; but inexplicably it doesn't seem to have any psychological effect on the characters. This made it very hard to *believe* anything that happened.
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9/10
Beautiful!
thirstydog-3261330 July 2018
When I learned that this was by the same director, Debra Granik ,as Winter's Bones (one of my all time favorite films) I knew I had to see this. It doesn't disappoint. The relationship between the father and daughter is beautiful and sweet, and we pull for these characters to pull through. The daughter was played brilliantly in an understated performance by Thomasin McKenzie.

There is beautiful and stunning scenery in the Pacific Northwest and the story is sublime about family relationships, mental health and loyalty.
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10/10
Foster and McKenzie deliver Oscar worthy performances. One of the year's best films.
george.schmidt4 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
LEAVE NO TRACE (2018) **** Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Dana Millican, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey. Excellent drama about a father/daughter relationship on the fringes of society with Foster and McKenzie delivering Oscar worthy performances as a damaged veteran and his coming of age daughter who both seek to make their family work at any costs. Filmmaker Debra Granik, who co-adapted the screenplay with Anne Rosellini based on Peter Rock's novel "My Abandonment", elicits heartfelt performances, tough choices and matter-of-fact reality of how inhumanity to man is perhaps the greatest sin. One of the year's best films.
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10/10
Great low budget film. Perhaps the best of 2018 so far.
tonypeacock-128 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Great screenplay and performances make this low budget film the best of 2018 so far. You don't need millions of pounds of CGI, A list 'actors' and massive publicity campaigns to make a damn good film.

The film is basically about a U.S. army veteran Will (Ben Foster) with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who brings his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) in the wild, literally. On public woodland in Oregon.

Obviously these living conditions don't go down to well with the local social services and Will and Tom are rehoused in a tree cutter businessman/farmer's spare property. The arrangement is grudgingly followed for a few weeks to appease the authorities before Will returns to his survival in the wild lifestyle. To escape the local authorities moving to an area far away. (Leaving no trace!)

Will and Tom are eventually taken in by a trailer community when Will is immobilised by injury for a while. The inner demons of Will are revealed by other vets with similar issues.

The performances of the unknown cast are excellent. I did wonder about the history of Tom's mother. That is not explored. The relationship between father and daughter is what makes this film for me.

The woody Oregon environment makes for a great cinematic backdrop. I reiterate how deep the film has an effect on the viewer. For such a low budget film with a limited release a triumph.
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10/10
Leave no Trace - A Film-maker's Film and the Work of Genius.
brankovranjkovic3 July 2018
Indi documentary film based on a novel.

Oscar worthy performance from Ben Foster, whose character is the father, struggling with PTSD. The beginning sets up the relationship between him and the daughter character. They follow a simple life, in the harsh forest environment, isolated from society, foraging for food, living completely outside of society.

They also lead a nomadic existence but are eventually discovered by the authorities and brought in for psychological questioning. Later they encounter random strangers who offer many forms of assistance.

Humanity is a strong theme throughout the film. The father makes all the life choices for them both, this causes some mild conflict but he knows that eventually his daughter will contemplate her own direction. In the end she makes a difficult decision.

This is an alternative lifestyle film that may cause you to contemplate your own life choices. A film-maker's film and the work of genius.
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3/10
Slow, unengaging, and forgettable
bldunn-2534326 July 2018
I guess I should have followed my instincts and walked out of the theater when I got bored at the 20-minute mark so I could see something else. This movie takes until almost the very end to build any palpable tension. I even found myself greatly disliking one of the protagonists, which is a bad sign. Overall, not only was I not engaged, I was not entertained, nor was I left to ponder any thought-provoking moments. Oscar-hopeful, this is not.
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3/10
Do not go in expecting to watch a thriller / suspenseful movie
rudrapalash8823 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
First, beautiful acting, and camera work! The actors portray the father-daughter beautifully, the tensions are well enacted and grips your attention. However, the lack of explanation, or any kind of backstory, the movie, in my opinion does not deliver. Why is he so traumatized? What happened to his unit in army? Why does he need to leave outside the society? What happened to the mom? None of these questions are answered.

I concur with the comment that suggests that this movie only has a beginning but not middle or end. The 3 stars are for the awesome acting and camera work.
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4/10
I want my 109 minutes back!
TheTopDawgCritic26 September 2018
Shocked at all the great reviews and high score. This film was just plain stale and boring with no background story nor introduction, climax or resolution.

The only decent acting was by Thomasin McKenzie. I'm a fan of Ben Foster but he did not shine in this film. He was unconvincing as a loving father and the bond was just not there as it was coming from his daughter. Perhaps that's how his character was written, and if so, that's a huge writing flaw.

The directing was ok but flawed with the overly dragged out scenes. The writing however was terrible. Perhaps it was the sleepy pace and way too long run time of 109 minutes for such a boring pointless story. This film would have been better off as a short. The editing failed as well, as this film needed either major cutting or more back story - if it was edited out of course. If not, then the writing was worse than I thought.

I get that he had PTSD but the story could have been told much better and in a shorter time such as one of my favs, Man Down with Shia LaBeouf.

A generous 4/10 from me.
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