Director Debra Granik returns to narrative features with something fairly akin to her Oscar-nominated thriller Winter’s Bone with the moving family drama Leave No Trace. As she had previously, Granik examines family dynamics and the hardships of caregiving for people on the outside fringes of American society. The system doesn’t help her characters, but they still manage and maneuver around its confines. The most distinct similarity between the films is that they feature a stellar debut from a young actress, this time with Thomasin McKenzie in an understated and entirely absorbing performance.
But to just reduce this new film to overly simplistic comparisons is to misread the holistic heart of Granik’s newest effort. Leave No Trace has more emotional aims, and much more to observe about the limitations we (as individuals and as a larger society) to care for one another.