Robert Bouffard
Student Writer

Coming to college probably came during a time of personal growth for most of us. It came during a time where we were figuring out who we were apart from our parents and our lives at home. This is the feeling that Leave No Trace attempts to capture, though it comes at a time in the child’s life that is quite different from that of going to college.

The Plot

Leave No Trace does a great job of capturing the audience’s attention from the very beginning. We follow Will and his young teenage daughter Tom as they are shown living in the forests of Oregon. For roughly the first 10 minutes, we aren’t given any indication as to why they live like this, and it is quite jarring once they first leave the woods. Park rangers find that they are living where they aren’t supposed to be, and thus, the plot is set in motion.

Significant Themes

We find out the reason Will wants to live in the woods is because of his PTSD after serving in the armed forces. He doesn’t want to be around the people who made him the way he is, so he decides to separate from everyone except for his daughter. This is a muted, but effective, commentary on war and what it does to people. There is nothing that will convince Will that he should do something differently, and that begins to have an effect on Tom.

After getting a taste of what the world is really like, Tom begins to yearn for it. This brings up questions about parenting, and what the right thing to do is in a specific situation. Tom wants to be around other people and to learn and do new things. It isn’t because she doesn’t love her dad, but because she sees the room to grow and wants to take advantage of it. Once the rangers take them out of the forest, Tom’s rapid desire to branch out begins. This puts her at odds with her dad, and she becomes the central character that we tend to side with.

It’s a Little Boring

Even with interesting and compelling themes, this movie can move slowly at times. Will and Tom go place to place as they try figure out what to do and it becomes kind of arbitrary. Sitting and talking in different settings can benefit a movie a lot of times, but here, it pulls it down. The reason for this is the underdeveloped PTSD plotline. It isn’t clear enough why Will wants to stay in the woods no matter what, and it holds the story back.


Leave No Trace is a decent enough movie with big ideas and important questions. Even when it gets boring, it gives time to think about the ideas that are being presented. These ideas are particularly relevant to us, which gives it that much more pertinence.

You can see Leave No Trace at Parmer Cinema on Friday, November 2 at 6 and 9 p.m. and Saturday, the 3rd at 3, 6 and 9 p.m.

Photo retrieved from