Every woman, particularly those fighting to find meaning in this life, should see this film. Robyn Davidson is a modern-day Amelia Earhart.
Tracks involves an adventure that both fascinates and entertains. It is a movie that has an enormous impact, and it should resonate with women of all ages.
Based upon a true story, it follows a 1700 mile journey in 1977 of a young woman across the Outback of Western Australia. Accompanied only by four camels and her faithful dog, our explorer, Robyn Davidson, challenges a landscape largely because life in general bores her.
Robyn is played in superior fashion by Mia Wasikowska, and this is an adventure that you’re likely never to forget. You watch Ms. Wasikowska as she learns to train camels, thereafter gaining financing from National Geographic by agreeing to allow them to photograph her at various times on her journey.
Robyn is not a woman who cares about makeup, hairstyle or fashion. Haunted by a childhood where her father left her with relatives after her mother committed suicide, she would just as soon live alone in a tent as long as her dog was at her side. She viewed the secret of life as being nothing more than a composite of hope, jokes and a dog, with the emphasis on the latter.
Her trek repeatedly takes her to the edge of death, but she never quits. Reaching the edge of despair after largely being alone for close to six months, she occasionally encounters local aboriginals who come mercifully to her aid.
However, what actually saves her is her relationship with the National Geographic cameraman played by Adam Driver. Initially, he does little more than completely annoy Ms. Wasikowska, who needs the financial backing of National Geographic but despises being photographed. Eventually, Mr. Driver learns to respect her wishes, and in the process agrees to join her only at periodic stops. She soon learns that he has more than a professional concern about her journey, and his wisdom in leaving water cans at strategic spots in a large desert literally saves her life.
Ms. Wasikowska is a very talented Australian actress, and she already has a glistening filmography ranging from The Kids are All Right (2010); Alice in Wonderland (also 2010); Lawless (2012) to Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). She is a forceful presence on the screen, and it is hard to take your eyes off her even when she is left bruised, blistered and muddy over much of her body.
On top of that, Director John Curran, who previously brought us the intriguing The Painted Veil (2006), ventures into a new territory with Tracks. Having majored in history in college, I know that most recognized explorers have been men.
For example, think about Marco Polo and his journey to China; Bartolomeu Diasto being the first navigator to sail around the Southern tip of Africa; Magellan whose crew first circled the globe with him dying in the Philippines; Columbus for discovering something called America; Lewis and Clark who were the first to cross North America to the Pacific (Sacagawea was left in the Rockies with her tribe) and Captain Cook who first explored Tahiti, New Zealand and parts of Australia. With the limited exception of Sacagawea, none of these famous expeditions involved a woman, and Mr. Curran has brought us an endearing film about a feisty female Magellan.
The bravery exhibited by Ms. Douglas justifiably brought her recognition in National Geographic as well as a subsequent book, and this film allows you to secretly travel as her companion. Ms. Wasikowska’s performance is filled with courage and heartbreak. There are moments that you will have tears streaming down your cheeks, and in the end you simply want to hug her and softly say, “Magnificent job, you demented little shit!”