Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #62

The actor:Thomasin McKenzie
The character:Tom
The film:Leave No Trace
The line:“The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me.”

At the end of 2019, I was in an absolute fever trying to find as many “Best Movies of the Decade” lists as I could scrounge. Out of the thirty-seven I got, only one of the major publications/sites noted Leave No Trace. Indiewire had it seventy-sixth. The cynical, and perhaps correct, interpretation is that if it had been nominated for any Oscars, it’d have done better on some of those decade-end lists. It didn’t lack for some admiration from critics in 2018, but this is the kind of movie that dies quietly at the Indie Spirit Awards and then, I hope, gets a big rediscovery in fifteen years where people go, “Jeez, why didn’t we appreciate this movie more?” There’s a fun little irony here for me, which is that my Best of the Decade list, the first thing that covid lockdowns sapped my will to do, lost Leave No Trace in the 110s.

Thomasin McKenzie appears to have made it her young life’s work to show up in real pile of crap movies since Leave No Trace, but she and Ben Foster are marvelous together in this picture. The two of them live in the woods in the Pacific Northwest on the edge of legality, making money from Will’s sales of the prescription medicine he’s not taking for his PTSD, living on public land where they’re not really supposed to stay. Much of the early part of Leave No Trace is built on the two of them getting caught and Tom’s first serious stay with housed people. She likes it. They leave when Will can’t take it anymore; they go back to some housing when Will injures himself badly. She likes that too. “The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me,” she tells him when he wants to leave for the woods. It’s an accurate understanding of their situation, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t absolutely brutal. We don’t live in the woods because the world is so bad, or because we’re some kind of rebels. We live in the woods because you lack the tools, the wherewithal, to exist with other people. If it’s said with the maladroit subtlety that teenagers scare up, then that only makes it more honest.

Leave No Trace doesn’t get its due as a coming-of-age movie, probably because it’s tougher for movie critics to identify with Tom than it is for them to identify with the awkward morons of The Spectacular Now, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Edge of Seventeen, pick your favorite pile of crap from this genre. But that moment where she chooses, despite being only of early high school age and having virtually no experience outside of what her dad has given her, to live her own life is what the coming-of-age genre is about. It’s about crossing a Rubicon from childhood to adulthood. The point of this genre is not about becoming a more knowledgeable or well-adjusted teenager. It’s about that most serious of choices, which is to decide that no matter what, you are not a kid anymore. This Tom does, and the way she chooses to make that choice is gutting.

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