If you’ve heard anything about Debra Granik’s powerful father/daughter tale Leave No Trace, it likely has to do with the performances. Granik’s first film in eight years, following on the incredible success of Winter’s Bone, stars Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living off the land in the forests of Portland, OR. He’s a war veteran suffering from PTSD, she’s a strong-headed girl with all of the swirling emotions teens have. When they are discovered by the authorities, it forces them to have to reintegrate into a society they’ve fought hard to avoid.
Foster has proven himself to be one of the greatest actors we have working today, slipping comfortably into a myriad of roles each more different than the next. As Will, Foster plays a man trying to escape his past by unplugging from the rest of the world and getting closer to nature. But he’s still held to the responsibilities that come with being a father.
McKenzie has been around for a bit but she is still a relative newcomer, and chances are you’ve already heard comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout performance in Winter’s Bone. Undoubtedly, McKenzie is yet another terrific discovery from Granik, both carry a strength and personal confidence that is undeniable. But the comparisons end there, and McKenzie deserves to shine in her own right. As Tom, the bulk of the film’s sparse dialogue falls on her, and I think it’s safe to say she more than holds her own opposite Foster.
I had the chance to talk with Foster and McKenzie about Leave No Trace, how they came to work with the reclusive Granik, and how the film affected their lives personally. In Foster’s case, he couldn’t escape that this film was happening at the time of the birth of his own child, and it impacted him deeply. For McKenzie, it was the biggest role of her career, and an opportunity she dove into with an obvious enthusiasm.
You can listen to my interview with them both below, and read my review of Leave No Trace here!