As one of the most pleasant surprises so far this year, “Tracks” is a meditative film following Robyn Davidson, who, in 1977, longed to find solace and sought it on a 1,700-mile trek through the desert of West Australia.
It’s a generous film, based on Davidson’s National Geographic expose and subsequent memoir, about a her adventure as a beautiful young woman (Mia Wasikowska) who sees the world a little differently and seeks solitude with her faithful dog, Diggity, and four self-trained camels.
Her trek is an adventure that may be, as she says, inspired by her father who completed a similar voyage through Africa, but it also acts as a way to clear her head from all the noise. In the dry, hot outback, Davidson, played terrifically by Wasikowska, finds herself by reflecting on the loss of her mother at a young age.
The film had a similar effect on me as an audience member. The natural way about it — quiet and calm — is soothing to be part of and enjoyable. While Davidson isn’t immune to her own stints of bad luck, “Tracks” never comes off as altered for theater; in fact, it may be one of the most honest films you’ll see this year.
I’ve always enjoyed Wasikowska’s work and this role seems bred for her, especially as an Australian who grew up knowing Davidson’s story no doubt. Mia plays the quiet, self-reflective woman so well. She did so as a shy Alice, in “Wonderland,” even as the quiet daughter of a pastor in “Lawless,” and comes through in the same vein of the upcoming “Maps to the Stars.” Mia inhibits such a quiet, innocent demeanor that her portrayal of Davidson comes off as a natural act. There’s nothing threatening or inconsistent about Mia walking through the desert in her underwear or roaming around topless. I never felt uneasy or stricken about it.
Aligning itself with Mia’s steady presence, nothing about “Tracks” is hard or rocky. It’s a film that allows the vast, scenic outback do its talking and Mia to take us on the journey. Moreover, Adam Driver, as a National Geographic photographer named Rick (famous for his photos in Davidson’s expose) is just hoppy and smiley enough to be a delightful addition to the film — although sometimes Davidson wishes he weren’t around. Mr. Eddy, too, is joyful when he’s on screen.
Director John Curran has done a nice job with this film. “Tracks” more than likely won’t give you too many highs and lows, scares or shocks, but Curran’s scenic directing ought to keep you interested. This is a quiet picture, not over-working itself to find spots of dialogue, and Curran keeps it going in the right direction as a film about Davidson’s journey.
He puts his fingerprint on the film through aerial shots that fly high over the animals’ tracks following Davidson and her companions along like the lines on the map we see so often throughout the film. It’s a nice thematic touch, accompanying the title and sometimes just bridging the gap between Point A and Point B because we most certainly can’t go to sleep with Davidson every night. Doing so, would make the film far too long. It’d make you work to get to the ending when, instead, it’s a very nice, therapeutic 112 minutes.
What we, and Davidson, learn from this expedition, is that we can’t be loners forever. Davidson grapples with the idea that her adventure wasn’t yielding the intended results, but it ends up leaving her better off. She becomes a changed woman afterward with a newfound appreciation for the people who care about her and the solace they offer her as well.