Tracks (2013) Directed by John Curran. With Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver.
Based on the memoirs of Robyn Davidson, who travelled on foot across 1,700 miles of Australian desert in the late 1970’s, Tracks is a film with a lot of ground to cover. Directed by John Curran and starring Mia Wasikowska as Davidson, the film is a beautifully sparse looking adventure that often struggles for air on an emotional level, mainly down to its protagonists steely exterior. In fairness, that’s not a fault with the writing, the direction or the acting, it’s just indicative of the character.
As the film progresses, we learn that Davidson prefers the company of animals to people. She’s had a hard start in life and the journey represents an escape from the modern world. In essence, it’s her hiding place. She says – “The universe gave us three things to make life bearable: hope, jokes, and dogs. But the greatest of these was dogs.” It’s this kind of witty rhetoric that masks her underlying sadness. We learn of her unhappy childhood experiences. Abandonment. It allows us at least to understand her motivations and her reticence when it comes to building relationships.
Wasikowska gives a fine central performance, firmly inhabiting the role of a young woman with a fierce inner strength. The sight of her trekking the barren deserts with three camels and her loyal dog makes for some strikingly poetic imagery. Ironically, as much as she wants to leave the world behind, her feat captures the imagination of the global media, leading to regular visits from reporters, one in-particular played by Adam Driver who is determined to chisel away at her initially dismissive attitude.
Like the landscape it covers, Tracks is a dry, serious story told at a slow pace. It has been compared to Sean Penn’s similarly themed ‘Into the Wild’ and while it isn’t as soulful or engaging as that film, there are still things to recommend. The journey doesn’t perhaps feel as long as it ought to, although it’s still hard to argue a case for it being much longer than its 112mins. 3/5