Based on the photography of Rick Smolan and the book by Robyn Davidson in which she told her true story of her experience, Tracks is the story of a young woman who goes on a 1700 mile walk across the Western Australian desert landscape with four camels and her black dog.
Directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil, Stone) and with a screenplay penned by Marion Nelson, it is a wonderful story of loneliness, hope and finding the ways to overcome life’s often horrendous occurrences, with a breath-taking backdrop of West Australia and its sandy plains. The cinematography, from the moment the film begins, is beautiful and we witness some lush scenery throughout the movie as the landscape becomes a character of its own in the film.
Mia Wasikowska (Stoker, The Kids Are All Right) plays Robyn, her stand-offish demeanour and anti-social personality brought out effortlessly by Wasikowska in a subtle and inoffensive way, allowing us to connect with, and feel for, Robyn, while also watching as she disputes human interaction and becomes angered as she is given little choice but to accept company at various times on her journey. The film begins with Robyn seeking work as a way to purchase three camels and fund her trip, but unable to get the funds quickly enough she writes to National Geographic asking for a sponsorship which they agree to. With this agreement comes a proviso that she meet with a photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) at certain points in her journey so he can document her trip visually. Once she says goodbye to her father, sister and a gentleman who assisted her in getting the camels she needed, we follow Robyn as she walks across the desert, experiencing loneliness, overwhelming heat, wild camels and meetings with native aboriginals. We witness her questioning her existence and coming to terms with certain demons from her past.
Driver, as Rick, though not in the movie a great-deal due to the film focusing for most of its time purely on Wasikowska’s Robyn, is a positive presence in Robyn’s life and helps her on her trip. His performance is laid-back and realistic, showing why he is becoming one of the more sought-after actors working right now. The remainder of the cast consists of small roles from the variety of people Robyn meets on her journey, and those who wave her off in the beginning. They all go towards creating a film that is convincing, striking to look at and, from what I’ve heard, loyal to the story on which it is based.
I was completely immersed by the film, its visuals featuring sunrises, panoramic vistas, images of the dazzling heat and the animals who join Robyn on her excursion took my breath away, and the performances, especially that of Mia Wasikowska, was completely believable, understated and captivating, she brought the story to the screen in a way that deserves recognition.
Tracks is possibly one of the best films in recent time to be based on a true account, with its details and loyalty to the original experience, and its excellent focus on not having its actors over-do their performances. It feels raw and fresh, and its authentic atmosphere is a joy to watch. I recommend this highly.