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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
The film title alludes to the rules of respect and care for the environment promoted by ecological campaigners: to minimise human impact on nature. This is a story of Will and Tom, a grizzled army veteran and his 13-year-old daughter. The question of Tom’s mother is not addressed.
Will and Tom are living a kind of radical guerrilla style existence in a huge public park in Portland, Oregon. They have built a secret camp with tarps and rudimentary cooking implements, making their own fires. They share a tent. They read books. They have military-style drills for staying undercover. Periodically, they amble out of the park and into the city, where Will can pick up his prescription for opioid painkillers at the vets hospital, which he can discreetly sell for cash on the black market to buy food, and then they return to the jungle. It seems like a perfect, even Edenic setup. But then Tom carelessly allows herself to be spotted by a hiker and things take a wrong turn.
The personae of Will and Tom are strikingly restrained, both in their conception and performance: there is an attractive humility and restraint at work. No scenery-chewing, no fireworks, no obvious scary-Colonel-Kurtz stuff from Will or obvious teen rebellion histrionics from Tom. Neither appears concerned with what the future holds for them, nor when Tom should really be getting a tent of her own – let alone meet other people her own age.
When they are picked up by the authorities, they are subject to very similar psychiatric assessments, in which they have to respond true or false to questions about whether they have dark thoughts, etc. Interestingly, escaping is also part of their way of life. They have clearly planned for what happens. They pretend to accept the social services’ remedial plans for them before they can slip away once more. Each time away from the wild brings Tom into contact with a society that she rather likes. A split is coming.