A swarm of bees sums it up - indifferent, beautiful in its proficiency, and dangerous. That's how Debra Granik sees the outdoors, and that's the outdoors she tosses her characters into, head over foot first, tumbling into the moss of Northwestern no-place specific. So when Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) is drawn to the low hum of a bee colony she stumbles upon a woman keeping in the woods it's no surprise that she's willing to stick her hand right in - that's the girl we've watched her father (Ben Foster) raise from the movie's first frame. A tarp for comfort and drinking water.
Tom might make quick friends with Jennifer Lawrence's Ree in Granik's Winter's Bone, or they might just eye each other suspiciously, quietly, from behind a half-rot log - who's to know? These girls have plenty in common, probably too much, but Tom is sweeter, less broken than Ree - the swarm of bees she and her father stir up here aren't hornets, mad with boxed rage, but honeybees intent on making shelter and food, going about their day to day.
Home is not walls for them - it is air, light, life. A freedom that's got its pluses and its minuses - you've got one sting to protect yourself and then its lights out, but you hold your weapons close - they make for more than one tool. Leave No Trace's strength is in its ambidextrousness - in its ability to see the forest for the trees, the bedposts for the lumber. We watch Tom find her footing, her home, her four walls as she sees fit. We watch her become a woman in graceful dirt-strewn sweeps.