Tracks (John Curran, 2013)
In 1977, twenty-seven year old Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) trekked 2700 kilometres from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, accompanied only by her dog, and three trained camels. Following her journey, Davidson wrote an article for National Geographic (her sponsor), and due to an overwhelmingly positive response, she subsequently published the book Tracks in 1980. A film version has reportedly been in the works for over two decades, and finally it is here.I have never read Davidson’s book and was unfamiliar with the story, so I can only comment on my experience of the film in isolation. Prior to viewing the film, I feared that Tracks could potentially be very dull, with all the focus on the one character. Surprisingly, there were many other players throughout the film. National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) meets up with Davidson various times to document her journey for the magazine (who are paying for her supplies). We are also introduced to the members of Davidson’s family prior to her journey, and the various locals she meets along the way. When Davidson discovers she needs to be accompanied by an Aboriginal elder through sacred land if she wants to avoid a lengthy detour, we meet Mr. Eddie (Roly Mintuma). There is a considerable language barrier in this relationship, however it always feels like the two understand each other. The camels and her dog, Diggety are prominent characters also. If you really want to get all wanky about it you could say that the landscape is a character in itself too, but please. I found the surroundings got boring after a while – it’s pretty much just sand and shrubbery.
So yes there were other characters, but still, how interesting could a long trek across half the country be? To be honest, less interesting than I expected. Maybe it’s because she was so well-organised that she didn’t face too many terrifying obstacles, but I anticipated a more heightened sense of fear and hardship. The trailer shows a snake sliding over her body as she sleeps and I thought this would be a big moment, but it is nothing more than a passing event while she sleeps (so who knows if it even happened) to show us the potential dangers of her journey. While there are a few scarier moments, they are dealt with so quickly that you barely have time to get your heart rate up. I should mention that if you have a problem with animal cruelty/killing depicted in films, you should be warned there is a bit of that. I assume no animals were actually harmed during the making of the film but unfortunately I forgot to check for the message in the credits (which apparently is no guarantee anyway). They were probably the most difficult bits to watch, but they were essential for Davidson’s survival. I’m sure Davidson’s journey truly was arduous, but some of that was lost in this depiction.
Mia Wasikowska is a rising star and she excelled in her role here. It seems odd that Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were both previously considered for the role of Davidson (we’re talking 20 years ago). I think they got it right with Mia. I don’t know what it is about Adam Driver that makes him attractive when he’s really just…not. Maybe it’s the fact he’s on the best television show currently out (Girls). But there’s something about his vibe I just dig. Give us more Adam, please.
I’ve noticed a few reviewers commenting on the lack of an answer in the film to the question of WHY Davidson embarked upon her journey. It doesn’t seem that perplexing to me. She was bored in her city life, her father had done something similar at her age, she wanted time to herself, and she wanted to achieve something. Comparisons with sailors Jesse Martin and Jessica Watson both come to mind and I guess society just doesn’t understand why young people would be willing to risk their lives for something that is ultimately not that enjoyable. But it seems clear it is about the experience of the journey and the sense of achievement in doing something alone, and the fact that these individuals are fairly confident they will survive. I definitely wouldn’t do it, but then, I hate the outdoors. Ultimately, it is an inspiring story, even if it did lack suspense. This makes it somewhat difficult to strongly recommend, but it’s probably one of the better films currently out. Support local cinema. And Adam Driver.