“Tracks” (2013) starring Mia Wasikowska & Adam Driver

Some nomads are at home everywhere. Others are at home nowhere, and I was one of those.

– Robyn Davidson

In 1977, a 27 y.o. Australian woman, Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), set out from Alice Springs (Northern Territory) to trek across 2,700 km of harsh desert of Western Australia to reach the ocean. Accompanied by her dog and 4 camels, she had NO other purpose than to find herself on a journey of self-discovery. At points along the trip, Robyn is joined by a young American photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver); he works for National Geographic (which sponsored her trip). The director (John Curran) is an American; he worked on We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004), The Painted Veil (2006), and various TV series. The cinematographer (D.P.) is an Aussie woman (Mandy Walker); she worked on Australia (2008), Hidden Figures (2016), and Mulan (2020).

Robyn: [in letter to the publisher of Nat Geo] I am well aware of the hardship I will be facing. I am the first to admit I’m remarkably unqualified for such a hazardous undertaking. But this is precisely the point of my journey. I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything.

There were several prior attempts to bring Davidson’s adventure memoir (also titled Tracks) to the big screen; she is a well-known in her native country. Over the years, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were attached to the lead role. The actual clothes (skirts, blouses, flannel shirts, etc.) that Davidson wore during her trek were recreated in fine detail. Wasikowka (who is an Aussie and of Polish heritage) gained acclaim as a troubled teen gymnast in S1 (2008) of HBO’s In Treatment; she played the lead in Jane Eyre (2011) opposite Michael Fassbender. She went to a “camel boot camp” for 3 days to learn how to work w/ the animals.

Rick: I didn’t realize how big camels are. It’s like a cow and giraffe mixture. It’s crazy.

She’s an awesome, ferocious actor. She’s so present in the moment, playful, and brave. And you can’t really ask for a better scene partner, I think. -Driver re: Wasikowska

I didn’t know much re: this film until recently; I assumed it was re: a road trip starring Driver (from the few US ads and comments by his long-time fans on social media). This is more about the female character- Robyn- who is introverted/reserved (preferring animals to people). On the other hand, Rick is an extrovert/chatty (who wants to get to know people). I don’t think I’ve ever seen Driver smile so much in a role (which is refreshing)! Wasikowska and Driver (wearing wire-rimmed glasses and clothes of that era) bring differing energies to their roles; she is bemused (maybe even annoyed) by his ebullience. Driver takes on a physicality that it “a bit awkward” (as Curran commented), though it is part of the sweet/nerdy charm of his character. Both Davidson and Smolan participated w/ the filmmakers on this movie; Smolan has a brief cameo as a park ranger. You can see this (free) on IMDbTV!

[1]...the human story is impressive, showing us a side of camels that I had no clue of. Camels as other animals obviously have their own personality and their own mind, seeing this depicted in a movie like this is amazing. Speaking of amazing: It’s not only the performances of the actors that are great, but also the visual presentation of the journey we’re taking with the “characters”. Inspiring and emotional, this might be able to touch you, if you go along with it (no pun intended).

[2] Despite the fact that it is often leisurely in the telling of Robyn’s true story and that Robyn is, for much of the running time, the only person on screen, it is never less than engaging. […]

Mia Wasikowska is very good in this gently moving film, but the real stars of this beautifully photographed story are the Australian desert and the camels.

[3] …the screenplay by Marion Nelson superbly uses brief flashbacks to give a psychological depth to what Davidson is trekking over, which never over powers the spiritual and personal discover that Davidson is making on the tracks. Largely taking place in the desert, Nelson avoids things drying up by crossing Davidson’s solo walk with intersections which take Davidson out of the self-imposed wilderness,as a sweet bond of friendship builds with Smolan, and Davidson learns of a completely different culture from the aboriginals.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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