Friday, 9 May 2014


Walking Wonder

Accompanied only by four camels and her dog, Robyn Davidson set a new benchmark for defying the odds by walking 1700 miles, the equivalent of going from London to Ankara, across the Australian Outback in 1977. Since featuring in National Geographic magazine and the global bestseller’s charts, this heroine’s inspirational tale is now told in John Curran’s brilliantly striking new film. No other release in 2014 has even come close to matching the same cinematic excellence.

From Mia Wasikowska’s perfect performance as the wandering writer to Mandy Walker’s epic cinematography, Tracks presents a beguiling odyssey into an extraordinary world, seldom exhibited on screen aside from the realms of cheap science-fiction. Few films have the temerity to leave the protagonist and her motivations largely unexplored, yet Davidson’s travails, predominantly consisting of marching forwards endlessly, is all the better for its understated and coy tone. Her ordeals left me totally enraptured from the first step to the last.

At no point is the viewer patronised by clumsy conservationist manifestoes and emotional motifs. Instead the script provides enough clues for a reasonably intelligent person to find their own conclusions about aborigine settlement issues, Davidson’s apparent introversion and her reasons for embarking on such an astonishingly lonely trek.

As in the case of his under-appreciated work on The Painted Veil, Curran has captured a stunning and resplendent landscape through his camera. Australian movies have never been shy of parading their natural habitat in front of a lens (Walkabout, Mad Max) but it has never before been shown as personally as through the eyes of Davidson’s wandering figure.

As heinous as it may sound though, even such radiantly beautiful geography fades to the background when compared with Wasikowska’s prominent screen presence, dominating every frame with a sensitive blend of mystery, fragility and courage. The same steel courses through her veins as Sigourney Weaver in full Ellen Ripley mode.

I hope Wasikowska never wins an Oscar - in the kindest sense possible - because her choices of roles to date exude a ballsiness which the Academy cannot stomach from mainstream actresses; unless, of course, they are named Jodie Foster. If there was a similarly prestigious award, but without the political and financial determinants, then she would have surely won it by now. After diverse parts in Stoker, Alice in Wonderland and The Double, it is easy to notice an admirably uncompromising and ambitious streak in the twenty-four year old.

Adam Driver is also great as Rick Smolan, the photographer that documents Davidson’s journey across the wilderness. Having been cast in the new Star Wars update, his profile is set to soon explode into the limelight.

For a film which will entertain, entrance and inspire in equal measure, Tracks is the only place to look this summer.


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