In the midst of a series of prolonged conflicts in the Middle East, American cinema in recent years has often explored the lives of veterans who return home to a country that doesn’t provide much support for them. While some movies have approached this theme through the crime-thriller genre, such as Michael Bay’s Ambulance, there are also options for those looking for something with a smaller scale. One such film is Leave No Trace, which will be leaving Netflix on July 4.
Directed by Oscar-nominated writer Debra Granik (known for Winter’s Bone), Leave No Trace has received acclaim from critics, earning a remarkable 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, surpassing even Toy Story 2. While I personally don’t rely heavily on Rotten Tomatoes for recommendations, in this case, it is absolutely right.
The story revolves around Will (played by Ben Foster), a PTSD-stricken veteran, and his teenage daughter Tom (played by Thomasin McKenzie). They live off the grid in a forest reserve near Portland, enjoying a peaceful life together. However, everything changes when they are discovered by a jogger, forcing park rangers and social services to intervene.
Leave No Trace is a poignant and emotionally powerful exploration of family, trauma, community, and responsibility. It sheds light on those who exist on the margins of society. The film is elevated by the superb performances of its cast, with Foster delivering his trademark brooding intensity and McKenzie shining as the wise-beyond-her-years Tom. The lush cinematography vividly brings the richness of the Pacific Northwest forests to life.
Personally, I consider Leave No Trace to be one of the best movies of the century. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to catch it on Netflix before it leaves on July 4. However, if you come across this recommendation after that date, fear not. The movie is also available for free streaming with a library card on Hoopla or Kanopy, and can be digitally rented or purchased on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.