Writer: Marion Nelson
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
Running time: 112mins
The lowdown: Robyn Davidson’s epic 1,700 mile 9 month trek across Australia arrives after decades languishing in the outback of Development Hell. Mia Wasikowksa is impressively prickly and enigmatic as Davidson, ably assisted by spirited camels and a faithful dog. John Curran plots the film along a traditional wilderness adventure path, but this is a journey worth taking.
The full verdict: Walking the Australian Outback with only a dog and a quartet of camels would seemingly give any right minded person the hump.
But, Robyn Davidson did just this, became a global sensation and penned a bestseller based on her exploits.
The Painted Veil director John Curran, succeeding where Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Sydney Pollack failed, brings this mammoth walkabout to the big screen and the end result is (just about) worth the wait.
Early scenes show Davidson honing her skills at different camel ranches and living cheap to save funds necessary for the trek. But, although wanting to be away from the world, only National Geographic sponsorship will make her expedition possible.
Meaning from day one she has to tolerate the monthly intrusive presence of eager oddball photographer Rick Smolan (Driver), whose magazine articles bring her unwanted recognition and the dubious title “Camel Lady”.
In her unassuming way Australian actress Mia Wasikowska continues to be the most interesting young actress currently working. After last year’s five star corker Stoker, she has chosen another inscrutable character and is more interested in making her compelling than likeable.
The rationale for Davidson’s potentially fatal adventure is left unclear; disdain for the world, striking back at a patriarchal society with a Boy’s Own adventure, a desire to immerse herself in the Aboriginal culture of the land? Or plain old fashioned childhood trauma – a flashback subplot to a family tragedy curiously bring comparisons with Saving Mr Banks, another Antipodean fused film.
An insistent music score attempts to fill in emotional gaps, but the impression remains Curran would have been happier with a more clearly motivated heroine.
Where Tracks really stumbles is in conveying the enormity of Davidson’s odyssey; wandering camels, a lost compass and a snake aside, there is little peril to report.
And while bravely eschewing the mysticism of Nic Roeg’s Walkabout or Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, Tracks lacks the visual majesty the daunting landscape requires, hamstringing talented cinematographer Mandy Walker.
Enjoyable, but a little dry compared to the best movies from Down Under.