Leave No Trace

Will, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, lives with his 13-year-old daughter, Tom, in an old growth forest park near Portland, Oregon. They live in isolation, using forest survival skills and only entering the town occasionally for food and supplies. Will makes their money by selling his VA-issued painkillers to other veterans.

After Tom is spotted in the woods by a jogger, she and Will are arrested by park rangers and detained by social services. They are assessed and she is found to be educationally advanced for her age despite never having been to school. They are found a house to live in on a Christmas tree farm in rural Oregon in exchange for Will’s work on the farm. Will begrudgingly begins work packaging trees, but is bothered by the helicopters used to move them. Tom connects with a boy who is building his own tiny house, and he introduces her to his 4H club. Social services continue to check on them and require constant form filling.

One morning Will suddenly decides to leave. Tom follows reluctantly. They return to their camp in the park, but find it has been destroyed. Will and Tom try to travel in a railroad boxcar but eventually catch a ride with a trucker who takes them to Washington state and drops them off, as they ask in a remote forested area. Cold and darkness force them to build a temporary forest survival shelter for the night. However, the next day they discover a vacant cabin and move in.

Will leaves to find food but does not return in the evening. The next morning, Tom discovers him unconscious at the bottom of a ravine . She gets help from local quadbikers, who take them to their mobile home community. Tom refuses to let Will be taken to a hospital. Dale, a local woman, calls a friend, who is a former Army medic and fellow PTSD sufferer. He treats Will’s leg and lends him his service dog who can help with his nightmares.

Will and Tom are given an empty trailer in the community while Will’s injuries heal. Tom likes their new home and tries to make a rental agreement with Dale who is its owner without telling Will. Eventually Will insists they leave. Tom protests, telling him “the same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me”. They tearfully hug and part ways. Tom returns to the trailer community, and Will returns to the woods. Tom is later seen to be leaving food at a place in the forest for Will to find .