Monday, September 15, 2014

“Tracks”– Movie Review



This week, The New York Times Film Club invited its members to see a screening of the new drama “Tracks” with Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver.


A young woman sets out on a 1700 mile journey across Australia – but when she decides to make the trip on foot and unaccompanied, will she be able to survive the experience?


In 1975, Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska) arrives in Alice Springs, Australia to find the adventure of her life:  she plans on making a 1700 mile journey across Australia, travelling west from Alice Springs to The Indian Ocean.   To make it even more challenging, she’s going to do it by walking and she decides to go it alone, despite the fact that she is far from an expert on such matters; all the while, many people try to discourage Robyn from what now seems to be an obsession, pointing out that not even more experienced male explorers would attempt such a feat, considering the effort foolhardy and dangerous.

Ignoring the warnings, Robyn immediately sets out to get herself an education.  Figuring that it would be best to travel with several camels to act as beasts of burden for carrying luggage, food and other supplies, Robyn offers to work at various camel ranches where she can be trained about the animals and learn how to handle them on her own.  After various setbacks and almost two years, Robyn completes her schooling and secures four camels who will accompany her and her dog on this trek which is expected to last over six months. 

Realizing that she may not have enough money to make the trip she envisions, Robyn contacts National Geographic magazine to see if they will sponsor the odyssey; they agree to do so on the condition that they send their photographer Rick Smolan (Driver) to visually document her experience for their publication; in exchange, Smolan will check-in on her periodically and deliver fresh supplies on each visit.  But with relentlessly hot weather across the deserts of western Australia and dangerous encounters with various forms of life indigenous to the area, will Robyn be able to survive long enough to make it to the west coast of Australia?   


“Tracks” is the true story of Robyn Davidson, based on her book of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the photographs taken by Rick Smolan that appeared in National Geographic magazine.  Despite what might seem like a dreary, boring single-character story not terribly well suited to a film, director John Curran does a fine job of compressing time and keeping the pace crisp; various interesting characters are introduced throughout the movie so the audience is never bored by spending way too much screen time watching Robyn interacting with her animals. 

It should be noted that if you are a fan of Adam Driver and planning to see this film simply because he’s in the cast, be warned that his character is not in too many scenes; this is definitely Wasikowska’s movie – Driver is about as scarce as flora in the deserts of western Australia.  That said, however, Driver plays his role of Smolan very close to the character he plays on the hit HBO television series “Girls”; here, the photographer is goofy and immature, while Robyn comes across as adult and grounded albeit somewhat anti-social. 

Following the screening, a journalist from The New York Times interviewed director John Curran.  Curran said that the shoot lasted approximately two months but that the pre-production took much longer.  He said that back in the 1980’s, he spent a few years living in Australia and that’s where he first learned about Robyn Davidson’s story; her book “Tracks” was something of a cult classic in those days – a copy was owned by nearly every young woman he met.  Robyn Davidson was very much involved in the making of the film; Curran mentioned that she had been trying to get the movie produced for almost 30 years, before all of the pieces finally fell into place. 


Tracks (2013) on IMDb

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