TIFF 2013 Film Review: Tracks

Image courtesy www.tiff.net

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

Directed by: John Curran

Genre: Drama (Australia)

Choice Quote: “I believe when you’re stuck in one spot for too long it’s best to throw a grenade where you stand, and jump…and pray.”

The Hype: The incredible real-life odyssey of a young Australian woman named Robyn Davidson who, in 1977, walked across the Australian desert with only four camels and her beloved dog by her side. Based on the autobiography Tracks, by Robyn Davidson.

The Reality: Critical reviews for this film have been mixed, and I think it’s because this near-3,000 km trek across the unforgiving Australian desert is an emotional journey as much as a physical one.

The desolate, rugged Australian landscape glows while Wasikowska captures Davidson’s stubborn will, determination, and lack of want for human closeness perfectly. Driver, meanwhile, as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, offers up the perfect antithesis to Davidson – an embracing, talkative extrovert who manages to breach her emotional shields, at least temporarily. There’s also Roly Mintuma as Mr. Eddie, a gentle, funny elder who helps guide Davidson through some of the deserts most sacred sites.

I think where the film loses viewers is, ironically, in the physical journey. Davidson has a few panic moments involving charging camels, but aside from one heart-breaking scene there’s really not much that happens in the desert beyond walking, and eating, and sleeping, and flashbacks to her childhood, and walking some more, and occasionally bumping into someone who’s, evidently, non-threatening. At one point a large snake passes right over Davidson, but she doesn’t flinch. So while the journey is arduous, the excitement some may be expecting doesn’t materialize.

This film is really about Davidson’s inner journey, one born of a lifetime of loving and losing those closest to her, and the desert is simply a means to accomplishing it. If you’re fine with that, and Wasikowska’s fantastic performance, and breathtaking shots of the landscape, you’ll like this movie. If you’re looking for a long foot journey that results in action and death-defying moments, rent Lord of the Rings.

The Verdict: A benchmark performance from Wasikowska.

See it in theatres or rent it?: Theatres

Can the grandkids watch?: If you think it’ll hold their attention.

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 kernels