Review: Tracks

Drawn from the true story of Robyn Davidson and her autobiographical works, this AFF-flagship film suffers from some awkwardness and earnestness, especially in its early stages, and yet it works due to committed direction by John Curran, sometimes breath-taking (and sometimes terrifying) cinematography from Mandy Walker, and strong work from Mia Wasikowska in a seriously challenging role.

Drawn from the true story of Robyn Davidson and her autobiographical works, this AFF-flagship film suffers from some awkwardness and earnestness, especially in its early stages, and yet it works due to committed direction by John Curran, sometimes breath-taking (and sometimes terrifying) cinematography from Mandy Walker, and strong work from Mia Wasikowska in a seriously challenging role. Davidson (Wasikowska) is a young woman with secrets and a past from which she obviously wants to escape, and in the mid ‘70s she decides to take an epic, 2000 mile walk from Alice Springs to the Western Australian coast with only four camels and a faithful dog as company. Why exactly this dangerous trek was something she so badly wanted to undertake is intriguingly never quite pinpointed (her Dad had gone on a famous safari of his own, while her voiceover and flashbacks hint at family tragedies and a hatred of contemporary times and possibly herself), and she eventually agrees to one catch for the sake of safety and sponsorship: to occasionally meet up with National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Girls‘ Adam Driver, deftly moving from being exceedingly annoying to sweetly amiable). And the journey itself comprises most of the running-time here, with Wasikowska alone onscreen for long periods and suffering from exhaustion, thirst, hallucinations and the most terrible, soul-wracking loneliness. Inspired by Smolan’s photographs (an amusing notion, perhaps, as Robyn is so critical of his tendency to distort the truth), this missteps a little, as factual tales often do, especially with its fudged first few scenes and sudden end, and yet there’s still much here to enjoy. And Wasikowska, in a role that’s been almost played by a host of stars (and former stars) over the years, is very fine, and allows herself to look as dusty, sunburnt and crazy-from-the-heat as Davidson surely was.

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