Lyric Movie Review: ‘Leave No Trace’ reminds us of veterans’ struggle with PTSD

Ty Davis

2018 has turned out to be a remarkably good year for indie films, with not only “Leave No Trace,” but also films like of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “Blakkklansman” and “Heart Beats Loud” all garnering massive interest.

An observant film-buff could argue that as Hollywood productions have gotten increasingly bigger while further stream-lining the filmmaking process, audiences seek less conventional films lacking the exorbitance of traditional studios. Having so many in a year barely half-finished is a rarity to behold.


“Leave No Trace” depicts the lives of a teenage girl named Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), and her father Will (Ben Foster) as they go about their lives living in a tent settlement just outside of Portland, Oregon. Their less-than-ideal living situation is a result of Will’s intense paranoia caused by his PTSD.

After an accident which ends with the father-daughter team being discovered, they must set out to find a new place to call home.

Unfortunately the lives of the protagonist mirror real-life occurrences of veterans living in tent cities or the woods, either through inability to find employment after service, unreceived benefits or issues arising as a result of mental illness.

More information and resources about veterans and PTSD are available at

Foster, who plays Will, has done the full spectrum of film budget, from multimillion-dollar productions like “X-Men: The Last Stand”, to smaller projects like “Kill Your Darlings.” Foster gives a performance so eerily lifelike as the possessed Will, a man so consumed by his singular goal due to compulsions he can’t control, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember it is a fictional, character.

Though she doesn’t have the years of experience of her fellow actors, McKenzie manages to deliver a performance comparable to the more seasoned actors, while foiling Foster’s character Will perfectly. 

To some, Mckenzie’s performance may seem stiff and awkward, but it is exactly in line with her character’s predicament. Tom has very little power over her situation, and though she has her own desires she does not know how, or if she should, properly express those desires while being affirmative yet empathetic to her father. 

Many films are willing to talk about mental illness, but few films have asked the question of what to do when someone’s actions are detrimental to both themselves and the people in their lives and are unwilling to receive treatment. 

If the film has any flaw, it would be its runtime and pacing, as every scene in the film lasts a few minutes too long. It’s one thing to show a process, but to have long, uninterrupted, shots where very little is established or lingers after the information has been conveyed, creates an over-abundance of film.

Should you see it: Yes. 

“Leave No Trace” is easily one of the best indie films to come out this year, and if this is the level of quality we can expect to see the rest of the year, then prepare to see a lot of indie movies at the Oscars.


Collegian reporter Ty Davis can be reached at or on Twitter @tydavisACW