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Leave No Trace is a film inspired by the book My Abandonment written by Peter Rock. Obviously, there are many discrepancies between films inspired by the stories in books and the actual stories in the books. As much as the story and film differ, I find Leave No Trace radically adjusts the narrative to direct and instruct more so than fulfill the telling of the story written by Peter Rock. My Abandonment feels like more of a therapeutic process similar to Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk which carries a poetic resonance of Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm though is less agonizing and grueling than the latter two mentioned.

Leave No Trace utilizes the “The Principles of Leave No Trace” in action to fulfill a core element of the story branching from My Abandonment which concerns leaving as is and letting go. There is a full redemption in the film and a freeing relinquishing that does not exist in My Abandonment. There are more than a few concepts at play in Leave No Trace—some more apparent than others—that must be addressed in accordance with the text of its inspiration.

There are very awkward still moments in the film that indicate an awkward attachment between the father and daughter which makes more sense in connection with the book focusing on Caroline’s (Tom/Yellow in the film) relationship with her father. Adoptive families and families from which adoptees come from are important topics which find a spin throughout the film which makes Will (Tom/Yellow’s father in the film) look more like a person assisting with and disrupting home placement at the same time (which ends up making the film more about a father-daughter relationship than a film about adoption processes).

Will becomes a more understanding parent by action as the film progresses and stands as a guiding force which gives Tom/Yellow the tools necessary to break away into her own. Tom/Yellow begins delineating the circumstances of which she wants to live with which is very important in viewing. Tom and Will spend a lot of time staring at each other conversing: both of them seem to be slowly separating especially as Tom begins to find that living with her father’s way of life is not most suitable to her liking. Leave No Trace makes choice very available for women—growing women in particular—that struggle breaking away from their fatherly nurturing to discover a broader world of choices available to them. In the film, Tom/Yellow is a woman of sensible grounding that has undergone proper training from her father on ways to survive and is capable of assessing social situations about her well enough to progress without suffering overwhelmingly due to her upbringing though she does go through slight troubles poetically shown through her interactions with her father in the film.

The other aspect is that lives are different regardless of the family from which one comes. There might be a familial purpose to assist growth—but, that will never be able to undermine an individual’s need—even want— to develop their life, within their own life, of their own circumstances. The film shows a great understanding from Tom/Yellow which results in a peaceable separation between Will and Tom. The book, My Abandonment, showcases a much rougher separation between Caroline (Tom/Yellow) and her father. Also, the effects of the daughter-father relationship extremely affect Caroline’s developments as an individual breaking into a more public-social realm: the daughter’s reality is completely twisted because of her relationship with her father and prevents her from even accepting the assistance of non-judgmental women willing to help her.

Both the film and the book create an accepting and overcoming on the daughter’s part of the father’s circumstances as well as of developing familial circumstances as the daughter in both the book and the film progress on their own with their available mind and skill sets. I understand the importance of parenting in one’s life— more so than parenting— guidance. People need guidance depending on their experiential, knowledge, and understanding levels which varies from person to person. I like the patience shown in the film which indicates a slow process might be necessary and best moving forward in one’s life where as in the text the daughter continues on her path though eventually finds her own pacing within the pacing she has come to learn from her father. There are a lot of good relationships that are available and to be had that should not find disruption due to one’s behavioral habits and understandings that may be detrimental to personal growths. A mind capable of truly developing and understanding does not suffer from having to experience familiarity and is capable of a flexibility which allows for the creation of life without bounds across many, if not all, mediums of existence. The film, Leave No Trace, and the book, My Abandonment, are both intriguing creative processes which draw many interesting points to analyze and ponder.

Grade: B+


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