Show & Tell: Leave No Trace


Okay, New England! It’s the time of year to shake the sand out of your pockets, fold up the beach umbrella, and load the station wagon for home. September is showing us how the change-of-seasons thing is done, with a string of days in the 70s and nights in the 60s. Time to dig out that box of sweaters and prepare for the gradual departure of your tan line.

Fortunately, the advent of fall has its advantages, first and foremost the joyful film banquet that is Telluride by the Sea! It’s time to watch movies until your butt aches! This year’s lineup is extra sumptuous, with at least two early Oscar favorites (The Favourite and Can You Ever Forgive Meanyone?) and a dog movie (Dogman). And don’t even get me started on the climbing documentary Free Solo whose production still made me break out in a sweat. What a delightful way to spend a weekend, watching great movies and rubbing shoulders with fellow film fiends!

And tonight, we have more than just a warm-up act. Leave No Trace is the story of a father and daughter living off the grid in a park/forest outside Portland, Oregon. The father, played by Ben Foster, is a veteran with untreated PTSD that makes it just about impossible for him to live with the noise and pace of modern life. He’s raising his daughter, whom he clearly loves, and educating her as well.

The daughter, played by the phenomenal Thomasin McKenzie, is a young woman of rare poise who is quite satisfied with being with her father. She’s good at their shared life, and when the authorities roust them from the forest and they have to face life in The World, she’s capable of that too. As she says to her father, “What’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me.” So when they try to return to their life in the wild, there’s a push/pull going on.

The real trump card with Leave No Trace is the director, Debra Granik. Granik was the director of Winter’s Bone, the movie that put the seal of impending stardom on Jennifer Lawrence, and she is as good at quiet intensity as any director working now. (btw, if you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone, you’re in for a treat. Rent it now.)

Leave No Trace will show in The Historic Theater at 7:00pm and the discussion will commence soon after the lights come back up.

Next Tuesday (September 18), as a kind of cooling off period after TbtS, we will be discussing Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about a string of biological and social coincidences that will, by all accounts, astonish you with a sense of discovery that only deepens as the movie goes on. There’s science and philosophy, joy and heartbreak in this highly rated documentary.

I hope to see you tonight, then all weekend at Telluride by the Sea. Here’s to being awake in the dark!

Paul Goodwin