Friday, September 26, 2014

Movie Review: Tracks

Directed by: John Curran.
Written by: Marion Nelson based on the book by Robyn Davidson.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska (Robyn), Adam Driver (Rick), Robert Coleby (Pop), Roly Mintuma (Mr. Eddy).

When you hear the basic outline for Tracks – a young woman walks across the Australian outback by herself – with only a few camels and her dog – you probably think that what you`re in for is a journey to self-discovery – especially when you hear the movie is based on a true story. Based solely on the preview, and a few reviews, I assume that the upcoming film Wild, with Reese Witherspoon, will deliver on that front – a film filled with flashbacks that illuminate the characters life, and why they decided to go on the journey in the first place. But Tracks is a more difficult film in that it doesn’t fall into that basic outline. Yes, there are some flashbacks in it (and to be honest, I would have preferred if there were none), but they do not shed too much light on why Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) went on her journey back in 1975. In voiceover, she does say that she is tired of being treated a certain way because of her `gender and class` but the movie doesn’t delve too deeply into that either. Neither is this really a spiritual journey – or even a woman getting back to nature film. It seems like Davidson simply went on her journey to get away from people – to be alone.  Whatever she learned from that journey, she keeps to herself.

Directed by John Curran, Tracks is a beautiful film in many ways, and a harsh one in many others. The Outback is unforgiving, and as the movie goes along, Wasikowska gets dirtier, and her skin gets sunburned and chapped. She faces difficult tasks and challenges – and even heartbreak – but she simply keeps going. The only other major character in the film is Rick (Adam Driver) a photographer for National Geographic, who the magazine insists on shooting photos of Davidson on her journey as a condition for underwriting the trip. He`s a little goofy and charming – and clearly likes Davidson – but the romantic relationship we expect doesn’t really develop between the two of them (apart from one scene, which is a one off).

This is the fourth film by Curran I have seen, and like the other three (the infidelity drama We Don’t Live Here Anymore, the Far East costume drama The Painted Veil, the psychological thriller Stone), Curran doesn’t give in to the stories more obvious trapping – and doesn’t go in the same direction. Like all of his films, I fear that some will find Tracks a little slow – and to be honest, it does move slowly at times – but the effect of making these films quieter than most is that they dig a little deeper. The movie asks a lot of Wasikowska – she is basically a character who keeps everyone, including the audience, at arm’s length – but the talented young actress delivers a wonderful physical performance. She has already been great in two other movies this year – The Double and Only Lovers Left Alive – and when combined with this film, she has deliver three great, completely different performance in a row (and she still has Maps to the Stars directed by David Cronenberg coming out later this year). She has become one of the best actresses in the world in a short period of time.

Tracks perhaps keeps the audience a little too far away from its central character. She is an interesting person, but she remains more of an enigma than anything else. I wanted a little bit more from the movie. But that would have been a different movie – than Tracks, and not necessarily a better one. Perhaps keeping the central character so unknowable will make Tracks all the more memorable – the type of film that grows in your mind after you’ve seen it.

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