Film Review: Tracks

Tracks is the ‘incredible’ story of Robyn Davidson, who felt the nomadic call and decided to trek from Alice Springs to the West coast of Australia, a distance of 1,700 miles with essentially, nothing more than she could pack onto 4 camels, and as The Beatles sang, a little help from her friends.

As films go it’s a strange one, because while it’s had rave reviews and both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic rate it highly, watching the trailer I didn’t really become drawn to it. I didn’t feel that natural pull of a film I wanted to see, it’s was more a case of something to do on boring Monday night rather than a must see at all costs film. Whether that has shaped my feelings on the film I’m not sure but sadly, my initial lukewarm reaction has annoyingly spilled over onto the film.

I really just didn’t ever connect with Tracks. Firsly, Mia Wasikowska just never felt convincing in the role of Robyn. She looks too young and naive and rather than being capable of trekking nearly two thousand miles through harsh desert has a vibe of lost little girl who’d starve and dehydrate within days. I don’t think it helps, that this complete sense misplacing also created an image to me of a celebrity “trying her hand” at a bit of camel herding than an actress playing a part. I never managed to forget that at the end of every day they shouted “That A Wrap” and Mia went to the hotel for a shower and a decent nights sleep.

Then there is the problem of time in this film and how it’s passing is portrayed. It’s not a long film – it’s just under 2 hours – but for 90 minutes of that we are treated to a girl who looks totally out of place walking, and walking and walking, very little else really happens. And while thankfully, the pace of the film never feels like it is plodding, or trudging slowly forward, matching the snailesque pace of Davidson, but instead manages to remove all scale of time, so the events that unfold seem to be at best confusing and at worse implausible. You are never sure whether the gaps between events are hours, days or even weeks. And this lack of focus and clarity means that the timeline of her adventure is hard to follow.

Tracks - Mia Wasikowska Walking

One big problem with this film though is its isolation of characters. Obviously, for a plot that tells the nomadic story of the “camel lady” simply walking, you accept there will be isolation, but her isolation never conveys the emotions that should accompany it. You never truly feel the desperation, loneliness and hopelessness she must have gone through at times that should be screaming louder and louder as her solitary existence draws on and on. And when Davidson reaches civilisation, and gets to interact with people, it all feels weak and glossy. There just doesn’t feel an depth to these interactions. The script has no sense of power to it. It’s more a fleeting glimpse of looks and words than anything meaningful. Even when the fundamental question of “Why are you doing this?” is raised it’s simply and pathetically brushed off with a “Why not?” type response.

I think the problems that dog Tracks are down to the interpretation of the source material. The film is inspired not by Davidson’s book, but rather by Rick Smolan’s photographs that accompanied the original National Geographic story of the trek. As you expect and are given, the credits roll over images of these original pictures and almost annoyingly, there is more power and emotion in the 2 minutes they are on screen then the entire film that precedes them. You get the sense that somebody behind the scenes saw the pictures and fell in love with them. However, whereas the photo’s capture a moment and tell a story with natural perfection and beauty, sadly the film has completely failed to bring that story to life.

Tracks - Rick Smolan - Adam Driver

I went into Tracks feeling completely hit and miss about it but prepared to give it a chance. However, for me it just never engaged. It never drew me in and the longer it went on the less and less believable I found it. The worst part is you sit there, knowing it’s true, knowing that what they are showing you essentially happened, and yet you don’t accept it. I wouldn’t say I was ever really bored, but I stuck in a loop of waiting for the film to explode into life before realising that it wasn’t going to; that the story is just walking to a natural conclusion. There are no twists and turns and sadly, no lingering positive memories.

I’ve come away feeling very much the same about Tracks as I do about Into The Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless which treads a similar nomadic outlook and life abandoning query. I just don’t understand their reasonings and drive to undertake the paths they do and thus, never engage or engross into the film and if I’m honest, I can’t see Tracks lingering in my memory for long.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.