Call of the Wild

Leave no trace

Film. Between thriller and social film, Debra Granik delivers a striking portrait of a father and daughter hidden in the forest. We met the director at the last Deauville American Film Festival.

Interview : Jacques Braunstein
Images : Olivier Schmitt for Else

They leave no trace … Will lives with his daughter Tom in the forest. They make fire, cook on a stove the mushrooms they have picked, repair the tarpaulins that serve as shelters, hide their property under a stump …

But this forest is at the heart of a national park not far from Portland (Oregon). And that’s where their problems come from. It is forbidden to live there and the social services are interested in their case.

Curt film and quasi-documentary that is not unlike that of the brothers Dardenne

Realizing that the father (Ben Foster) takes care of his daughter and provided for his education, they then seek to find him a house, a job on a farm … But the former soldier disgusted by civilization, and visibly suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, does not support this new existence. While her teenage daughter makes friends and likes.

The filmmaker Debra Granik practices a curt and almost-documentary cinema that is not unlike that of the brothers Dardenne (Rosetta, The Child …) or Stéphane Brizé (The Measure of a Man) … She even speaks of visual anthropology for to qualify his work, but the term must not make us flee. It gives way to the majestic beauty of the rainforest nature of the northwestern United States. Granik practices a healthy subtraction, getting rid of all superfluous questions: does it come back from Afghanistan or Iraq … what has become of the mother … To concentrate on the essential: what they do, the tension that is born . Leave No Trace is also the opportunity to discover a new actress, the New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie, 18 years old. We are looking at her with interest since Debra Granik’s previous fiction, Winter’s Bone (2011), revealed Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Game, Happiness Therapy, X-Men …). “Is she made to become a star? I do not know and that’s not my problem. I looked at how she was holding a knife, which she was moving through the forest, and I knew it was her”. Explains the director.

We are surprised, moreover, that his film did not win a prize in Cannes or Deauville, where it was presented. Her formal beauty and low-noise tragedy seduced us. Did they disqualify him from other social films that choose to play more violent dramas in more sordid settings?