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Soundtrack review: Leave no trace (Dickon Hinchliffe – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Leave no trace (Dickon Hinchliffe – 2018)



Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The film is directed by Debra Granik from a script adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini and based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock. Ben Foster’s name alone makes me want to see this movie as I always like his intense performances. Dickon Hinchliffe wrote the score.

Naturally when I see a story like this, my expectations from the music are for an ambient, reflective composition. This is just how it would fit better for me and the opening cue, the minimalistic “Forest park” evokes just the kind of mood I was expecting and looking for with a combination of guitar and violin that makes me think of a vast and lonely place. The Americana sound gets deeper with “Rough country” and the harmonica and violin sounds that bring that middle America landscape to mind. This is how right from the start the score stays true to the story and I don’t need to see the movie to know the setting.

The music is not idyllic though as cracks appear in the sound just as soon as the troubles appear for the characters. “The runner” brings me a flashback of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis music; “Wind river” comes to mind and this is one of the highest compliments I can pay to a cue; it’s the same uncertain, unfinished type of cue that spells mystery. I’ve always been drawn to scores like this one, I’ve always been drawn to the sound lonely, empty, sparse journeys through a rough land; these minimalistic sounds just get to me and the way the strings ask questions and evoke hardship and heartbreak, I could listen to it for hours. It’s why Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are my favourite pair of composers and it’s why Dickon Hunchliffe will also get on my radar from now on, because he nails this particular sound, the quiet poignancy that never fails to affect me.

“Leave no trace” is a quiet, sombre minimalistic composition that pierces enough to actually leave a trace for me; it’s more of a whisper of a score that manages to be emotional and evocative regardless of how quiet it is; this is how a story like this should sound and I got just what I wanted from this album.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Forest Park
The Runner
Drive to the Farm
Not That Kind of Trouble
We Share a Star

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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