Tracks sounds like a slog, the true story of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) as she treks 1,700 miles across the Australian desert with four capricious camels and a black dog named Diggity. The journey, which spawned an article for National Geographic and a global bestseller, begins in April 1977 and lasts for nine arduous months. But hold on. The movie, which lasts a scant 112 minutes, is no mission for masochists. Tracks is an exhilarating adventure that opens up an unknown world to most of us and does it so well that we feel we're living it too. Tracks also gets inside the head of determined woman who suffers fools badly and craves isolation from the noisy squeeze of civilization and burgeoning technology. Relate, anyone?
Directed by John Curran (We Don't Live Here Anymore, The Painted Veil) from a tight, focused script by Marion Nelson, the film tracks Robyn from remote Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. A few unnecessary flashbacks sketch in the reasons Robyn wants to be alone. But Curran keeps the usual Hollywood camel shit at a safe distance. When the outside does intrude, it's mostly in the form of Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), a nattering American photographer who drops in on Robyn for photos every six weeks at the insistence of the magazine financing her trip. It helps, especially when Rick shares Robyn's sleeping bag, that Driver has a charm that feels welcome, specially in a dust storm. Another visitor is Mr. Eddy (Rolley Mintuma stealing every scene he's in), an Aborigine who guides Robyn over a treacherous part of her journey. It's the tourists and photographers wanting to get snaps of the "Camel Lady" who make you want to grab a camel and ride. No matter. Wasikowska, 24, raises the movie above the herd. In films as diverse Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, Stoker and the HBO series In Treatment, this Aussie actress, 24, ranks with best of her generation. Propelled by principle instead of the next hot guy, Robyn is character who sticks with you. And Wasikowska plays her with grit and grace.