Director: John Curran
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
Watch Tracks online in the UK: iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The opening shot of Tracks is an upside down glimmer of Mia Wasikowska’s melancholic, camel-collaborating pioneer, indicating (as if there were any doubt) that we’ve landed somewhere on the other side of the world. The heart of Australia, to be precise.
Perhaps inevitably, given its immersion in the rich and unforgiving Antipodean landscape, Tracks is a dusty, rather picaresque film, beautifully shot and gorgeously rendered in a rich golden hue by director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and his talented cinematographer Mandy Walker (Australia, Red Riding Hood). Most of the action takes place in the mid-seventies, but to be perfectly honest, it feels rather timeless. The call to adventure, trapped in perpetuity.
Wasikowska is the movie’s lead. She’s a gifted actor, often ill-served by the studio machine, but on the way up thanks to a handful of admirably low-key and graceful performances in small, independent features, such as Stoker and Only Lovers Left Alive. Here, the Alice in Wonderland star goes native, acting in her natural Australian timbre. She is a warm and welcoming presence in a picture that requires her to command and control every single scene.
Wasikowska plays real-life pilgrim Robyn Davidson, who treks 1,700 miles across the outback accompanied only by two camels and her trusty dog. Her goal is solitude, to revel in sweet isolation. Her motivations are initially a little hazy, like a desert mirage, though as the film progresses, we learn of a tragic family history that could indicate the source of our protagonist’s increasing ennui.
The film feels quite sincere and Davidson is, for the most part, in complete control of her own fate. The elements occasionally get in the way (cue sandstorm!) but for the most part, it’s a rather credible adventure. As a result, there’s little sense of real peril and Tracks ends up drifting carefully and conservatively to an inevitable coastal finale. Think a more conventional, Richard & Judy Book Club cousin to the illicit voodoo of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, or perhaps a safe, Radio 4 version of Jon Krakauer’s feral desolation parable Into the Wild.
What’s inspiring here is that Davidson makes the decision to remove herself from civilisation on her own terms. Having said that, she’s no martyr to feminism, merely a woman tired with the constant, supercilious glare of society. Tracks may not be a particularly radical film, but it is a quietly defiant one.