JDIFF Review – Tracks

In 1977, Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) decided to walk 2,000 miles across the Australian desert; from Alice Springs to the ocean. Robyn’s only companions over the six-month journey were to be four camels and her dog; the solitude was something she craved.

Robyn Davidson’s story is one that has inspired people around the world, since it was first published in The National Geographic Magazine in 1978. On her journey, photographer Rick Smolan – played in the film by Adam Driver – met up with Davidson along the way to document her journey for the magazine. It seems as though the film is rather faithful to the book, but what appears to be lacking is motivation.

Mia Wasikowska is perfectly fine in the role of Robyn Davidson, and her disdain for other people is clear throughout the film. What is not clear, however, is the reason why Robyn is so desperate to get away from other people. Wasikowska is more than able to command the screen on her own, but without a motivation as to why – one is offered but feels too thin to be true – Tracks turns into an incredible journey that is done for the sake of it. There is no shame in that, mind.

Adam Driver is great as the photographer who is fascinated with this solitary traveller, and his appearances punctuate the film. Roly Mintuma has a great role as the Aboriginal elder who guides Robyn through the sacred sites of Australia and, even though they don’t speak the same language, as Eddie gabbles away in his native tongue, he feels a constant support to Robyn, rather than someone who demands something from her.

Screenwriter Marion Nelson easily captured the emotion of a woman who craves solitude, but the script fails as it does not gave adequate reason for Robyn to start her voyage. As well as this, we almost always only see Robyn when she has someone with her, and as such, do not get an adequate picture of her life in the desert, alone. That said, however, there are plenty of emotional moments throughout the film, and Robyn comes across as a strong and brave woman who is willing to take on the world.

Director John Curran makes the Australian landscape look fantastic as he voyages with his character across the barren land. There is something charming about the caustic central character and, even though we do not always understand why she is going on her journey, we never really question her decision to do it. The film suffers slightly through a meandering tone and direction, but then isn’t that what the film is truly about?

In all, Tracks is an interesting story of a determined and strong young woman. Choices may not be ever fully explained, but what emerges is a warm and engaging tale. The animals provide warmth and comfort, and the landscape provides challenges and a sense of true loneliness. Wasikowska shines in the role, and her caustic and gentle interactions with Driver are wonderful.

Rating: 3/5

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