The top Netflix movies list is often made up of films that get more flowers from fans than roses from critics. This is not that kind of movie. Today (July 6), we spotted a film in the top 10 Netflix movies chart in the U.S. list that isn't just critically respected, it's universally adored.
In at No. 6 — below the Dave Bautista-led Final Score and above the Jason Statham-led Wild Card — is Leave No Trace, which just arrived on Netflix two days ago (July 4). It's from 2018, and we won't judge you if it flew under your radar (at least one Tom's Guide staffer admits they'd never heard of it either).
But other staffers rave about it, and that combined with a 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) score means it's practically a lock for our best Netflix movies list (we expect it will show up there soon). So, let's break down what Leave No Trace is about, why critics adore it and if you should watch it tonight.
What is Leave No Trace about?
Debra Granik's 2018 film (based on a Peter Rock 2009 novel titled My Abandonment) may remind some of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, in that it's a story of a father and a child trying to survive in the wilderness. In this case, Will (Ben Foster) is a veteran of the Iraq war and trying to make ends meet with his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) as they (mostly) live off the grid.
Living in hiding from law enforcement and others, Will and Tom don't avoid custody for too long. Once authorities track them down, the two are forced to adapt to a more normal life.
The two don't stick with that plan for long, as Will chafes at various rules and restrictions. But the more Tom learns about society and organized civilization, the more she questions her father's decisions. It's all told in a touching and respectful tone, not portraying either character in a negative light.
It may also remind audiences of one of Granik's other works: the 2010 film Winter's Bone. In that film, Jennifer Lawrence played Ree Dolly, a girl who lived off-the-beaten path and had to fight for her family's survival.
Why do critics love Leave No Trace?
Leave No Trace's 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score is no fluke, as it's comprised of 249 "fresh" reviews, including 68 from top critics. David Sims at The Atlantic (opens in new tab) called it "one of the best films of 2018," and declared it will "make a star of [Thomasin] McKenzie."
Richard Roeper at the Chicago Sun-Times (opens in new tab) wrote that Leave No Trace "is further evidence Granik is one of the most talented directors around — and Ben Foster ranks among the finest and most intense actors working today."
Robert Daniels of 812filmreviews (opens in new tab) praises the film, writing that "Foster’s performance alone would be enough to carry this film, but McKenzie somehow matches him. Already being hailed as the next Jennifer Lawrence, since Granik also discovered Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, McKenzie makes that distinction hold up. It can’t be fully expressed how advanced McKenzie’s approach is."
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