Leave Only Footprints concerns the travels of novelist Maddy (Louise McManus) and her brother, former park ranger Kevin (Pete O’Donnell). Maddy is looking for inspiration for a novel long overdue to her publisher, so Kevin offers to take her around to various crime scenes found in his old National Parks stomping grounds, in the hope that the tales of unsolved murders and/or accidents will get her creativity going. As they travel by RV, Kevin explains all the crime scenes, along with his theory as to who is behind the nefarious events.
My biggest criticism of Leave Only Footprints, as it is, is that it makes a better story to be read than it does a film to be seen. Since the majority of the film is just conversation between Maddy and Kevin, predominantly with Kevin explaining all the different crime scenes in the various National Parks, it finds itself erring on the side of “telling” as opposed to focusing on the “showing.” Well, to be fair, it does have small snippets of re-enactments of the various murders, but those are briefly shown before being fleshed out by Kevin’s explanations. So it shows a little, then tells a lot; the balance of action to exposition is off.
Which isn’t a problem if it’s a book, and since that’s what Kevin is trying to inspire while traveling around with Maddy, I think the information works in that way. I can see how this would work in a more novel-friendly form, and I think it could be entertaining enough; definitely worth an airport paperback rack. As a film, though, it’s a lot of footage of driving, nature shots in the various parks and talking.
And while the conversation can be witty and interesting at times, the delivery doesn’t always come across natural either. Pete O’Donnell definitely has a better experience with making the flow of words sound convincing, but Louise McManus comes in and out of believable in her delivery. It also doesn’t help that the audio mix leaves a lot to be desired.
As an overall effort, Leave Only Footprints didn’t work for me. The constant conversation wasn’t a competent stand-in for the necessary suspense, and the beautiful scenery added a breathtaking scale and ambition that, unfortunately, the film itself could not match.
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