A young woman in the ‘70s walks across the Australian Outback with her dog and some camels.
I tell you, the whole concept of “high-concept” has some merit.
Just think of all the questions this raises: Why is she walking? What’s with the camels? What kind of dog is it? Why the Outback?
None of these questions are particularly answered in Tracks, but that’s okay, because the answers are sort of like “Why not?”, "Camels are cool!“, "A good dog!” and “Well, we’re in Australia, where else you gonna walk?”
It’s probably a testament to Robyn Davidson’s story, as interpreted by director John Curran and writer Marion Nelson, that the answers really don’t matter much. If a woman wants to take a bunch of camels across the desert alone, why shouldn’t she?
And, really, if you’ve met people, why wouldn’t you want to cross the desert alone?
Anyway, it’s a long trek, of about 2,000 miles, much of it completely water-less. Also, it’s the mid-’70s, when a mile went a lot further. For long stretches, Davidson is completely alone (except for dog and camels), while for other stretches she’s being harassed by National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, who nearly botches her trip by trying to secretly photograph an aboriginal ritual.
She also has a stretch where she’s accompanied by an aborigine, with whom she strikes up a friendship based on, I think, neither of them being able to understand the other. There’s also a brief stop at a house that’s about as far in the middle of nowhere as is possible, and is remarkable for looking like it could’ve been straight-up in the middle of the MidWest of the US.
Amazingly, it all works, without being boring. We learn a bit about Davidson’s past, but really it’s just an adventure story/personal journey, and I sort of think the background information, while interesting, isn’t the point. (How can the background information of a personal journey story not be the point? Well, because the point of the journey is to come to terms with it, whatever it is, such that what it actually is, isn’t very important. That’s hard to follow but worth it.)
Mia Wasikowska does a fine job as Davidson. Adam Driver also looks the part as Smolan. Actually, the two look just dead on like the people they’re portraying. It’s not a high-octane adrenaline-fueled thrill ride, but it’s a solid adventure film, in the mold of Kon-Tiki.
The Boy and I approved.