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NHFF’s Saturday Night Spotlight: Leave No Trace

At the 18th Annual New Hampshire Film Festival, there are films for everyone. Between feature films, documentaries, short films, even a VR experience for the first time this year, there is bound to be something for every kind of moviegoer. But few films are so critically acclaimed and well-loved as Saturday’s Spotlight: Leave No Trace.

Premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Leave No Trace, is based on Peter Rock’s 2010 novel, My Abandonment and stars Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as father, Will, and daughter, Tom, who live off the grid in state parks near Portland, Oregon. Directed by Debra Granik, co-written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, and co-produced by Rosellini, Anne Harrison, and Linda Reisman, the film focuses on Will and Tom’s relationship and their unorthodox life together living off the land and often in isolation from the outside world.

When their camp is discovered, Will and Tom are put into social services and are allowed to live together on a pine tree farm. Tom takes a liking to the farm and the people she meets there but Will, a veteran suffering from PTSD, never feels comfortable or at home and longs to return to their old life. Eventually, Will and Tom leave to find a new home in the forests of Washington. As they undertake their new journey, their relationship is tested and ultimately leads to a fateful decision that defines what home is for this father and daughter.

This NH-affiliated film features stunning shots of the forests of the American Northwest, by cinematographer Michael McDonough, combined with a beautiful and ambient score by Dickon Hinchliffe, which help the viewer to understand why Will wishes so badly to return to his old life.

Along with the themes of home and place, the film explores man’s relationship with nature through Will and Tom’s relationship with the forests they call home. The forests are shown to have a healing effect for Will who struggles with his PTSD throughout the film, and it is through these challenging moments we are reminded of the struggles of real people who are homeless or traumatized.

By the film’s end, the question for the audience becomes, “What makes a home?” and beyond that the question, “Where is your home?” will stay with the viewer long after the credits roll.

By Ben Bradbury-Koster

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