Director: John Curran
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Rolley Mintuma, Emma Booth, Rainer Bock, Robert Coleby
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release Date: April 25th
I am sceptical about soul-searching dramas. Burned too often before, I’m always fearful I may not be in the correct mood to appreciate the film. Fortunately in John Curran’s (The Painted Veil and Stone) latest work, my worries were soothed … for now at least.
Tracks depicts the real life journey of writer Robyn Davidson, who at 27, set off for the Indian Ocean from the east coast of Australia with her faithful dog, Digidy, and four camels. “Why not,” she says. Departing from Alice Springs like a one-woman circus, her belongings are piled high on the humps of her four legged troops. A 2,700 kilometres trek across a harsh and desolate terrain, she camps with aboriginal leaders, meets rangers, and brushes off passers by along the way who come to know her as ‘the camel lady’; and I should mention not one bottle of sun cream makes a cameo in this picture.
Davidson is played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Stoker), who is convincing as the young lady who hides her fragility while being as stubborn as she is determined. Following her we meet a collection of characters; the most memorable being outback elder Eddy (Rolley Mintuma), who enlightens us with his method for shooing away tourists, and then, most often, photographer Rick Smolan (Girls star Adam Driver) who is covering Davidson’s footprints for National Geographic. Driver is enjoyable as the sincere and geeky artist who proves a constant hindrance to Davidson. Together the pair create some of the film’s most poignant scenes, which in turn make up for the sense that the story skips ahead too far and too often.
Despite this need to jump ahead in parts, the film is a beautiful journey that benefits from a lack of intensity, and is as much about company as it is being alone. The scene-stealer is without contest the outback itself. Orchestrated by Victoria-born cinematographer Mandy Walker (Baz Luhrmann’ Australia), quirky panning will force the audience to smile, while displays of rusty landscapes with fiery skies met by angry blue-grey clouds turn the picture into an evolving canvas.
The main drawback to Tracks is that it doesn’t appear hard enough for Robyn, as if we haven’t fully witnessed her hardship. We see her skin reddened by the sun, we see her sleep alone by a fire surrounded by desert, we see her question her grip on life, and we laugh at the comical circumstances she encounters along her route. However, as is often the case with biographical works, the reality is that it can be difficult for them to appear real through a lens. Here Tracks may not show the full trail, but it is still a journey worth taking.