Tracks is a genuinely inspiring story about one woman’s quest to walk alone (well, aided by her three camels and trusty dog) across the Australian Outback. The film is washed in so much stunning cinematography that, sadly, as it goes through the movie magic machine all the drama comes out, leaving a very bright looking, albeit strangely empty, film. Maybe that’s the point, showing author and heroine Robyn Davidson’s isolation, but maybe it’s a result of the focus being more on style than substance here.
Overt repetition of the sweeping top-down shots of Australia’s scorched desert landscape convey the vast scope of Robyn’s journey and the reality of her solitude. Although necessary and unquestionably beautiful, maybe this dedication to the natural beauty of Oz comes at the expense of some solid connection with our protagonist.
Mia Wasikowska shows again that she’s a young star burning brightly towards a glistening career as one of Hollywood’s very best. And it’s her charismatic and dedicated central performance that carries the film and lends ample pathos that, you feel, without her presence it would lack.
Director John Curran handles Robyn’s story well though, encasing Wasikowska’s complex and vulnerable Davidson in a rich mix of supporting acting talent. The particularly wonderful Eddie (Roly Mintuma) bringing warmth and soul, as well as a fair share of humour, to the portrayal of Aboriginals in the film.
Adam Driver loans his considerable charms to a role that allows limited room for manoeuvre, in Rick Smolan, a goofy and irritating American photographer from the National Geographic magazine. He grows on you though, providing some much welcomed comic relief and more than that, as his strong caring personality, which effuses from that unorthodox yet handsome face, becomes pivotal in Robyn’s spiritual / mental survival.
And it’s this relationship, between Robyn and Rick / Wasikowska and Driver, that forms the emotional and romantic core of the film. Despite Robyn’s familial reasons being draped as the backdrop for her embarking on this journey, and the irksome flashbacks throughout that allude to these, it’s her bond with Rick that connects most. In her quest for isolation, to find (or lose) herself in the desert, and her apparent repulsion at other people, it’s with Smolan that she discovers her most telling intimacy, love even.
Ultimately, the story of Robyn Davidson is far more interesting than this film, although, thanks to Wasikowska, it’s plenty good enough to look at for a couple of hours. It might even get you thinking about making some tracks of your own…
first published on filmjuice.com