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Tracks - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

To summarize Tracks, which is pretty easy to do, is to oversimplify it: a young loner of a woman walks, mostly by herself, from the middle of Australia to its west coast. She takes along four camels, carrying equipment, and her dog.

But this is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson, played competently here by Mia Mia Wasikowska, with a script based on Davidson's own autobiographical account. As directed by John Curran, the film mostly sticks to an oddly comforting unpredictability, offering occasionally hypnotic images of the desert scenery. This is how basically true stories are when done well. Only the last five minutes or so slip into more typical cinematic contrivance, but the journey we take with Robyn up to that point makes up for it.

The first quarter or so of the film doesn't just introduce us to Robyn, but shows how she took a couple of years to prepare. The story begins in Alice Springs, widely known to be a town as close to the middle of nowhere as one can get. Robyn works for room and board in several different places, a couple of them working with feral camels. It seems that after importing camels in the 19th century, and then released into the wild after being replaced by motorized transport, by the 1970s Australia had the largest feral camel population in the world. Who knew? It's not just all kangaroos and koalas out there.

Robyn Davidson prepared between 1975 and 1977, learning how to break and train camels, and eventually procuring four of them for herself. She tells us in her voice-over narration that she has no clear reason she can give people for being so driven to walk this journey, although it seems her widower father once did something similar in Africa. (There are occasional flashbacks to a childhood during which her mother killed herself, perhaps to give us insight to her psyche, although these digressions never feel particularly vital.)

Unable to raise as much money as she needs, Robyn meets National Geographic photohrapher Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), who helps facilitate his magazine sponsoring her trip -- in exchange for him meeting up with her several places along the way to take photos. Naturally a bit of romance occurs between the two of them, and not having read the original account, I can't speak to the truth, but it feels very much like movie-obligatory romance -- even though it characterizes Rick getting a bit of the wrong idea out of it.

Tracks doesn't quite get to Cast Away levels of solitude for its protagonist, although plenty of time is spent just with Robyn and her animals. There are plenty of scenes with Rick, and Robyn meets a whole host of people in her travels, from rural residents offering a helping hand to Aborigines who offer her a guide through sacred areas where women are not allowed unaccompanied. At one point, Robyn goes to skin a kangaroo, and her guide insists she let him do it, as women aren't allowed. We never learn why this is, exactly.

But that's a lot of what makes Tracks work: why is generally not known, particularly for a young woman with this unique drive and compulsion. But Wasikowska pulls us along with her performance of steely stoicism, and quiet resolve that compels us to root for her to keep going until she reaches the coast. Her journey's end winds up being slightly too Hollywood-happy considering the tone of the rest of the film, but this is one of those cases where it's the journey and not the destination that matters.

Mia Wasikowska takes a lonely and picturesque journey in TRACKS.

Overall: B+
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