About two weeks ago, I set off on a spree of rants about the trailer of Jean-Marc Vallée’s new film Wild. Someone (God bless him) suggested that I should watch Tracks because it shares a similar vein with Wild. I acted out fast, procured the movie on Bluray and found myself weeping when film was over. In 1977, a strong, level-headed woman called Robyn Davidson went on a 1700 mile trek scaling the prodigious lengths of the wide expanse known as the Australian outback. Her ‘camel trip’ across the desert would end at the tip of the Indian Ocean, she says, eyeing the map with intensity. She had picked up four camels and a faithful dog for companions, and had set off into the harshness and the prickly heat of the wilderness. Davidson had taken off for Alice Springs at the age of 25 and trained for two years to make sure she knew she could survive out there, willingly lost and alone. Based on her eponymous bestseller, Tracks submerges its narrative into the nucleus of Davidson’s journey and takes us along for the ride. Mia Wasikowska plays Robyn with an air of absolute dominance and skill, mingling her raw talent into the beauty of the screenplay (Marion Nelson) and spearheading this gem of a film into a masterpiece shined to perfection. Director John Curran realizes the apparent lack of pace of the film and chooses silence over resounding noise to tell the story. “Ah, words are overrated,” says a character to Robyn, echoing the director’s sentiments. For this is a special film: one that dares you into an enchantment by sweeping your feet off into an adventure. The trip was undertaken by one woman, but its repercussions have and will continue to reverberate through countless lives, inspiring action over the dumb monotony of life. Cinematographer Mandy Walker makes love to the audience with her camera and illustrates the vigorous power of images. She crafts each frame with loving attention to detail, cradling the exquisite locale like a mother affectionately gazing at her newborn. The sun boils with rage, our heroine walks on undisturbed by trivialities like chapped lips, and we clutch to our hearts and pray for the woman. Garth Stevenson weaves in another layer of magic into the journey by providing a soundtrack to sway with. The quality of the score is almost meditative, strumming along the lines of spirituality by allowing the story to move on its own; like a wine that tastes best when it’s allowed to breathe. Among the supporting cast, Adam Driver pulls off a nuanced and convincing Rick Smolan, the photographer who had captured Davidson’s journey for the National Geographic. His presences are intermittently scattered but he is an important part of the story. The most memorable role though, is by Roly Mintuma who plays Eddie, an elder who accompanies Robyn to Warburton. Her dog Diggity also manages to stir up one of the most heartbreaking moments for the film. But ultimately, the film soars with Wasikowska’s powerfully comprehensive performance. In the scenes where Robyn’s memories come to haunt her, she responds with a naked potency that makes us feel the pang of loneliness that troubles her. Her fears and vulnerabilities are bare before us, seeking refuge in our sympathy. There is no acting here, she is Robyn Davidson. It is a portrayal to remember her for.
Tracks is a jaw-dropping achievement not just because of its inherent beauty, but for the weight of the thoughts and sincere emotions with which it moves. I grew up as a person in the 112 minutes that I watched Tracks.