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The Ethics of Leave No Trace—A Film Review

The film, Leave No Trace raises a number of ethical issues and dilemmas. The story itself is a fictionalized version of events that occurred in Portland. As you learned from the articles you read about the actual family who was living in Forest Park, the film takes some liberties with how they present this situation and family, though the narrative of events remains consistent with the actual story. Fictionalizing individuals and events can pose ethical issues. Events, decisions, and conversations may be given outsized importance in fictionalized versions of reality in order to make the story more appealing. Characters may also be painted as heroic or villainous ignoring the complexity of most people’s lives and relationships. 

In addition to the liberties the film took in portraying this story, the events themselves spark numerous ethical dilemmas. For example:

• Should the family have been evicted from Forest Park?• Was it in Tom’s (Ruth’s) best interest to remain with her father?• Was Tom’s (Ruth’s) home school education adequate?• At what point do a family’s choices to live outside of the mainstream of society become potentially harmful to their children? 

The film also presents a romanticized portrait of mental illness and homelessness. In addition, it reinforces many stereotypes about veterans and to some extent, homelessness. The way in which these often stigmatized populations are presented could also pose some ethical issues. 

For this assignment, you will write a 2-3 page review of the film Leave No Trace. In your review, you will explore one or more of the ethical issues this movie presents. You will need to take a clear stand on the ethical dilemma you pose. When you evaluate the ethics of a situation, you need to consider the impacts it may have on everyone involved. Please use specific examples from the film to support your arguments and ideas. Your review should include:

• An introduction• Brief summary of the film • Analysis of the ethical issue(s) in the film• Conclusion

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