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Tracks

What She said:

She

Tracks is a 2013 Australian film based on a travelogue memoir written by Robyn Davidson. It chronicles Davidson’s nine-month journey across the Outback of Australia, as she braved the desert and the perils of wilderness by herself, with only her dog and four camels to keep her company. I honestly had never heard of this movie before seeing it pop up as a free rental through Netflix. However, I’m a huge sucker for journey films, and so I knew it would interest me.

Robyn Davidson is an independent soul. She’s made it her goal to venture across her home country of Australia, but she’s had trouble just getting started on her trek. She knows that she needs the guidance and assistance of camels; however, they’re not exactly easy to come by, especially if you have no money. As Tracks opens, we meet Davidson, who is working for a camel farm. She assists in the care and training of the camels, in exchange for the promise of eventually being permitted to use a handful for her trek. After two years, she still finds herself empty handed.

Tracks

She is introduced to National Geographic Magazine photographer Rick Smolan, who suggests that Davidson reach out to others as funding sources for her journey. Although Davidson wants to complete her trek completely independently, she takes advantage of the opportunity and writes to National Geographic. They agree to provide the backing necessary to get Davidson on her way. In exchange, she needs to contribute an article. Davidson also agrees to allow Smolan to photograph her at various points throughout her journey, although her tolerance for the man is quite limited.

Davidson sets out on her way, and she actually seems quite capable of making the trip. She has developed an extensive knowledge of the dos and don’ts of survival in the Outback, and is proficient with a rifle. She ends up having to use her weapon on rogue bull camels, which are apparently quite aggressive. Who knew? Davidson’s greatest adversity is the leg of her journey that takes her across Australia’s most arid deserts. Despite the fact that she has adequate water stores, she does start to go a little batty. The experience, while a soulful one, is also emotionally taxing for her.

Unlike some other “personal journey” memoir pieces, Davidson does not hide the fact that she relied on others for help along the way. She was required to have a male escort in order to cross what was considered sacred lands by the indigenous peoples of the area, and an elder was crucial in this part of her trip. Davidson also came across people living independently in the Outback who would provide her with food or a place to stay for the night. Finally, Smolan, who periodically shows up for his photography sessions, also provided Davidson with companionship and much-needed water along the way.

This film doesn’t present some huge payoff in Davidson achieving her goal—just relief. She seems slightly unsure of why she’s even making the journey, but it’s clearly something that she’s impulsed to do. In real life, the trek had a huge payoff for Davidson. Her National Geographic article was so well-received that she ended up writing the memoir upon which this film is based. She’s been able to explore her passions and pursue research and advocacy, in no small part due to the notoriety that she earned through her journey.

So, let me get back to the film. I generally liked it. It’s a bit thin, in that we don’t see the emotional depth that was presented on screen in films like The Way or Wild, but that also seemed genuine to Davidson’s actual experience. She’s portrayed as having been well-prepared for her trek and she didn’t face quite the same level of adversity as some others.

Tracks

The movie, while beautiful to look at, is not the most intriguing to follow because not that much really happens. There are moments of introspection, but they’re poorly framed and so they don’t exactly make sense or have the impact intended. But the visual appeal of this film kept it from becoming flat out boring. It was interesting to look at and get lost in, despite not being at all intellectually challenging.

I do think this movie had potential for being something much greater, had it been a little more emotionally stimulating. I’m still not entirely sure why Davidson decided to undertake the journey, and I cannot figure out what she learned or how she grew from the experience. Had I been presented with those additional nuggets of knowledge, I think that the movie would have struck me a little more deeply.

However, I was very impressed with the production of this movie. It felt authentic and, as mentioned, was visually spectacular. Mia Wasikowska was good as the lead, and Adam Driver also did a good job as Smolan. Both physically looked very much like their real-world equivalents, which was somewhat uncanny.

I cannot say that I disliked this movie in any way, even if it did underperform in my eyes. It was a nice little ride.

Thumbs about 75 percent up.

Tracks

What He said:

He

Who knew that dropping everything and disappearing into the wilderness was such a thing? This is at least the fourth movie I have seen in the last few years about people who decided to stop living in society and go live – or spend major time in – the wild.

Tracks

In 1977, Robyn Davidson decides she wants to travel across the Australian desert to the Indian Ocean. Why? Well, she doesn’t really like anybody and wants to be alone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few people she cares about, but she is generally uncomfortable around people and wants to be alone – and by be alone I mean disappear into the wild with her dog.

Robyn (Mia Wasikowska) is a little different. Oh, I don’t just mean she wants to go for a 1,700 mile walk in the desert. You see, she has no experience or money to accomplish this goal. She is something of a nomad. She doesn’t have a home, but stumbles upon a rundown – and abandoned – home and decides to set up shop there until she begins her trek.

She also has no experience or supplies, so she takes off jobs working at camel farms to earn money and get experience with camels; which she plans to use carry her supplies. The jobs don’t exactly pan out as she had hoped and so her funding is still very limited.

One day, a group of friends come to visit her at her “home”. Robyn is very uncomfortable amongst the group, some of which she appears to not know. One of them is a National Geographic photographer named Rick Smolan (Adam Driver).  Unlike Robyn, Rick is very friendly and outgoing. He’s a little goofy, but he is seemingly harmless and a nice guy. He finds out about Robyn’s goal to trek across the desert and encourages her to contact National Geographic for sponsorship.

Tracks

Reluctantly, she does and they agree to fund her trip! They have a few stipulations though. She has to write an article and allow Rick to photograph her periodically throughout the trip. She does, but spends very little time with Rick. They meet up for a few minutes every weeks and he takes shots of her, the camels, and the dog. She ditches him as quickly as possible each and every time, which does not go unnoticed. Rick is a nice guy, but even he grows tired of her misanthropic ways. Still, he does his job, and even helps her – dropping off water jugs along the way – when necessary.

This is a movie about a troubled young woman. I thought I didn’t like people, but this girl makes me look like the happiest guy on Earth. Throughout the course of the movie, you find out why she is so damaged, but it is questionable she changes or learns much. It appears that as of this day, she is not married, nor does she have any children or a significant other. She still seems to prefer to be alone. It’s sad at times, but also frustrating, because she can be kind of mean. She is not the most likeable person in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It’s actually a pretty interesting story, despite its simplicity. It really is just about a girl who decides to walk across the desert. It’s one of those movies that is very straight-forward, but manages to hold your interest. Mia Wasikowska does a great job bringing this character to life.

Tracks

Rick is a lot more likeable than Robyn is. I get why she finds him annoying – he’s one of those guys who almost nauseatingly polite – but I have a hard time disliking somebody for being nice. Even if it annoys me a little, he’s not the kind of person I’d be rude to. He means well and is genuine. I thought Adam Driver brought this polite doofus to life with a nice balance.

I have to bring up Mr. Eddie before I wrap this up. Mr. Eddie (Rolley Mintuma) is an Aborigine whom Robyn crosses paths with during the course of her journey. There is a certain part of the trip where Robyn is required – by the Aboriginal people – to have a male guide. Women are not allowed to cross part of the land alone, so Mr. Eddie is assigned to her. This guy is something else. He talks non-stop. You might only understand one word every couple of minutes, but that doesn’t stop this guy from talking. It’s hilarious. He talks, and talks, and talks the entire time. He’s pretty damn loyal too. He helps Robyn hunt, is a good guide, and pretty decent company considering she can’t understand most of what he is saying. I loved this guy. I want to have a drink – or ten – with him.

Prognosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June 10, 2015.

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