A tale of a father and daughter living off the grid in the forests of the Pacific north-west of the US proves the perfect material for Winter’s Bone [HIFF 2010] director Debra Granik. Renowned for her empathetic portrayal of marginalised outsiders, Granik here conjures a low-key drama about cultural and generational divides that is alternately gripping and melancholic, but always shot through with the unmistakable ring of truth. The result is work of overwhelming, understated power that quite simply took my breath away.
In the secretive midst of a vast public park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon […], reclusive veteran Will (Ben Foster, typically intense) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), live in camouflaged encampments, moving regularly to evade detection. Their existence is elemental; they make fire from the earth and gather water from the sky […]. But when their cover is blown, the pair are captured, interrogated, and forced to re-enter the modern world, with divisive results.
McKenzie, the rising New Zealand star […] combines the astonishing technical skills of a young Jennifer Lawrence with the wide-eyed naturalism of David (”Dai”) Bradley in Kes. Watching Leave No Trace, we feel as though we are watching her grow up before our eyes; her pain, courage and compas- sion are tangible and real. It’s a pitch-perfect performance around which Granik builds her flawless, deeply affecting film.
Mark Kermode, Observer