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Film Review: Tracks


Tracks opens with the lines “There are a few kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them”.

From the beginning of this film, following Robyn Davidson’s (Mia Wasikowska) quest to cross 2700 km of desert alone, on foot, i.e. to withdraw entirely from civilization, all I could think was - why would anyone do that? Her journey across the Australian desert seems to meet no real purpose, except for its allowance of her total isolation from humans. These opening lines relating to nomads are probably the extent of insight provided about the inner workings of Robyn’s mind.

And so the intrigue factor of the protagonist is planted. Robyn’s inscrutable emotional landscape is essentially the driving force of the movie, because the plot doesn’t stray very far from a girl leading some camels across blisteringly rust-coloured land. We’re introduced to the character on her arrival to Alice Springs, where she intends to learn the way of the camel as a ranch-hand. During this process, various friends and family members show up, and try to talk her out of her crazy plan, but all in vain.

Robyn’s character remains more or less a mystery. With her utter indifference for sociable behavior, you start to expect some backstory to accompany this, to answer some questions about her unfaltering oddness. A few traumas are alluded to, but this is all done in a relatively inconclusive way. Even by the end of the movie, despite the fact that you’ve just accompanied the girl through some pretty harrowing times, you don’t feel like you know anything about her. This character could be described as fiercely reticent.

While her inner thoughts remain a closed book, Robyn’s mental and physical struggles with the elements are palpably conveyed. I felt personally assaulted by the sun, as Wasikowska’s skin turned from creamy to raw red. The visual impact of her almost-albino complexion undergoing such damage is pretty powerful, acting as a visual metaphor to the inner crusade of the trek. The film involves a highly nuanced representation of the remote Australian community; especially considering the director is not an Australian himself. Completely devoid of any stereotyping, each peripheral character was played authentically, and Wasikowska does an unnerving job as the impervious Robyn. Adam Driver is well cast as the goofy National Geographic photographer, who is also Robyn’s lover in a series of one-night-desert-stands.

Tracks is based on an incredible, true tale - but really, is the tale that different from the antics of your typical 21-year-old? Restless and unable to find contentment in the daily grind of city life – this is what most young people quash with a little travelling. Robyn Davidson preferred the idea of challenging the harsh Australian elements rather than trying her luck in the grimy youth hostels of Eastern Europe. She opted for extreme sunburn over Bali belly. Days-long dehydration rather than self-inflicted hangovers … but is it all much of a muchness? At least this backpacker had some camels to lug her pack! 

Ultimately another film about self-discovery, Tracks boasts some on-the-money performances and skin-tingling scenery, but is perhaps just a variation on a theme well trodden. 


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