Leave No Trace (2018) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 9

directing 8

effects 7

editing 8

writing 8


4 out of 5 🐙


This is the first movie I’ve seen with Thomasin McKenzie. She was great. It made me think about child actors in general. It seems most child actor tuns are excellent or at the very least above average. I suppose that’s because child actors make up a small minority of actors/roles in movies so there is a much smaller sample size. But even within that small size, again, they seem to be quite good. There are some notable exceptions to this rule (see Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace, Edward Furlong in Terminator 2: Judgment Day*) but in general, kid actors bring it.

(*I’m not saying Edward Furlong is a poor actor. I thought he was phenomenal in American History X but his performance in T2 was so off-putting to me that it’s hard for me to watch the movie because of it.)

McKenzie and Ben Foster carry this movie on their able shoulders. Foster plays a broken military veteran who can no longer cope with society and he does it with a quiet despair and dignity that resonates even though his dialogue is sparse. McKenzie plays her role with pluck and seriousness that belie her young years. Her father is shattered but still trying his best but she has to bear more than the typical child would due to his challenges.

Their interaction with each other, while often mundane, resonate powerfully. It was also interesting to see them interact with the community of people who eschew traditional societal living and choose to isolate themselves in the wilderness. I had not seen a movie with that group before so I’m grateful for it.

The ending is absolutely heartbreaking. I want to talk about it but I want you to experience it freshly. I don’t really think I have the words to qualify the emotional bomb that is dropped on the audience. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

I salute Debra Granik and her subtle and powerful writing and direction.







(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

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