ANDREA PLATE WRITES: The fine-art fingerprints of Debra Granik, director of 2010’s “Winter’s Bone,” are all over her stunning new movie “Leave no Trace,” recently released on DVD. Both set the stage for breakout young actresses—“Trace’s” star, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie is just eighteen — Jennifer Lawrence was around twenty when filming “Bones.” Both story-lines feature a female lead forging a practical and psychological path out of the wilderness (“Bones’ Ozarks; “Trace’s” forests of Portland, Oregon). Both were co-written by the winning team of Granik and Anne Rossellini.
McKenzie is no Jennifer Lawrence clone, and she is equally talented, hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, where she still lives. She is the product of an acting dynasty (her grandmother is Dame Kate Harcourt, while both parents are actors and directors). The family is in fact friends with famed New Zealander/filmmaker Jane Campion (1993’s “The Piano,” starring Holly Hunter), and McKenzie has starred in a short directed by Campion’s daughter. Already, she has several upcoming projects, including a movie based on the story of controversial Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly, costarring Russell Crowe.
McKenzie’s marvelously mature acting and luminous blue eyes shed great light on the dark drama of “Leave No Trace.” This is the story of a father and daughter duo on the run, literally, from their government’s social services. He’s a widowed Iraq War veteran with PTSD (Ben Foster), shunned by the local Department of Veterans Affairs but uplifted by the love and understanding of his daughter.
Likewise, “Leave no Trace” is uplifting. The young daughter rises above her dad’s despair. And in real life as well – in the international movie business – this young actress’ career is surely about to soar even higher.