Entertainment Movies Should you make Tracks to see this desert adventure?
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Should you make Tracks to see this desert adventure?

Mia Wasikowska in trafcks. Photo: Supplied
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Director: John Curran
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
Duration: 106 mins
Rating: M
Release Date: 6 March, 2014

Stephen A. Russell for the Lowdownunder says: “Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Robyn Davidson, Tracks tells the tale of the young woman who, in 1977, decided to walk from Alice Springs through the Uluru to the Indian Ocean (some 2700 kilometres).

John Curran (Praise, The Painted Veil, We Don’t Live Here Anymore, Stone) directs Mia Wasikowska as Robyn, four camels and intermittently Adam Driver who plays national geographic photographer Rick Smolen. There are interactions along the way with Aboriginal elders, the camel wranglers etc but Curran’s focus is the introspection on Robyn – a character seemingly in some kind of existentialist crisis.

Tracks is gorgeously shot and cinematographer Mandy Walker shines in this aspect of the film, the outback landscapes and lush colour palettes that are exposed at different times of the day and night are gloriously captured on screen. You are most definitely out in this hostile yet beautiful wilderness with Robyn and sheer size of it is a character all its own.

The issue with Tracks comes from the lack of roundedness in the character of Robyn. Being she is in pretty much every scene of the film, there has to be anchor points that keep you interested and invested. How do you do this? With levity or a bit of fallibility with the character. Something we can identify with. The one thing that Tracks sorely lacks is the one thing it so desperately needs – a sense of humour. If only subtle. Something to warm me to Robyn.

I found our heroine strangely distanced from me, hard to access and for quite a while difficult to like. As you’re spending a good 110 minutes with this character you better prepare yourself for a dour, downbeat depresso adventurer. Curran seems far too concerned with ensuring we know she’s been brought down by the weight of the world and that she’s wearing it with every step. Every chance of levity is wrenched out of the character to ensure dramatic tension.

Human drama is Curran’s forte, his previous works all deal with the same types of characters who all journey through an arc to come out better people at the other side. In this respect Tracks is certainly his leanest and more direct effort – the lack of characters gives plenty of time for introspection and metaphor in the film.

The scenes with Adam Driver’s Rick work to mixed effect – there is chemistry between Driver and Wasikowska but again this insistence to keep everything so serious and existential has a leadening effect on the relationship. I don’t know – I just wanted to like her more.

Tracks is a beautifully made film that showcases just how spectacular our backyard is. It’s just a pity the film makers didn’t have a little bit more fun with the material as mixing it up a bit would push it from being a good film, which it is, to a great one.”

SBS says: “On a human scale, however, much depends upon the performance of Wasikowska. She carries this film—she’s in virtually every frame—and in doing so, more than amply demonstrates why she’s currently one of the most sought-after young actors in the world. Pale and slight, she’s an astonishingly compelling screen presence, possessed of a grave sort of calm that shades, occasionally, into a joy as unforced and radiant as any seen onscreen.”

The Telegraph says: “Of course you think of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, and perhaps Curran knowingly pays tribute to that masterpiece of landscape cinema in a sequence in which Wasikowska, echoing Jenny Agutter 22 years earlier, strips naked and plops into a pool for a cooling dip. But Curran’s film is less concerned with coming-of-age than simply coming-and-going: this is a simple and beautiful journey undertaken purely for its own sake, and approached in that spirit, Tracks will lead you to a place of quiet wonder.”