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The Weinstein Company // PG-13 // September 19, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The personal journey has the power to completely change our perspective of the world around us. Many people around the world have become inspired to venture on such an adventure in order to truly find themselves. This has also provided filmmakers with the opportunity to put a fascinating journey on film. In this case, screenwriter Marion Nelson has adapted Robyn Davidson's book based off of her own experience. Given that this is based upon a true story, this is an excellent opportunity for the audience to join in on this fantastic journey. Not only should it provide a fascinating atmosphere, but it should allow us to get inside the mind of a woman trying to find herself. However, the film never quite allows us to get that close.
After her father went on a treacherous journey of his own, young Robyn (Mia Wasikowska) decides to go on a 1,700 mile trek across the deserts of West Australia. She wants to be one with the wild, as she brings a few camels and her faithful dog along with her. Once she's forced to bring photographer Rick (Adam Driver) along with, she must make a journey quite different from what she was expecting, as she continues to face one obstacle after another.
Before Robyn sets out on this journey, she must acquire all of the necessary tools in order to survive in these deserts. Camels are a necessity in order to carry her supplies, although she first must learn how to handle these animals. Surprisingly, the first act of the film offers the most amount of insight as to Robyn's motivations and inner-most thoughts. It's odd that these moments don't take place during the adventure itself, but this is when we feel closest to her. There might be other individuals around, but her mind is clearly already isolated in the deserts. As she continues to discuss her intentions and her family life, we're drawn into this intriguing character. She appears to have a lot of substance to her disposition, as it feels as if we still have the world to learn about her. It's a shame that the character development comes to a halt once she truly sets out on her adventure. While we still receive some narration, Tracks largely turns into a superficial trek with no true payoffs.
Rather than feeling as if we're experiencing this journey with Robyn, it feels as if we're getting the summarized version. The film is edited in such a way that everything feels rushed. Tracks never takes the time to allow us to absorb Robyn's thoughts and surroundings within these empty lands. However, she isn't alone through the duration of the entire picture. While she occasionally meets up with the photographer, she meets some unexpected individuals along the way. Tracks might take place over a certain amount of time, although audiences may believe that it's much shorter than it actually is. With the exception of a couple instances, we never feel within the same time and place as Robyn. We're kept at such a distance, that it's difficult for any emotional impact to be made. Instead, this feature feels largely removed from us, making the venture seem irrelevant. We want to be a part of this adventure, but we're constantly aware of the fact that we're watching a movie.
Yet, there is something to be said about the film's simplicity that works for it. Even though we don't get the chance to truly get inside of Robyn's head, the film doesn't feel nearly as biased as many of these films often do. Tracks allows its viewers to think for themselves, and form their own opinions of Robyn, her motivations, and those around her. Once we reach the third act, the film introduces a new set of elements that allow the film to become rather interesting. As we meet some new individuals along the way, we finally get the feeling that we're learning something about this journey. The picture turns becomes all about facing one's demons head on, and learning to endure the pain that we may feel. This is a truly fascinating approach to a genre that seems to have completely run out of unique directions. Now, if only the same could be said about the remainder of the running time.
While there are some new faces to see along the way, this is largely a one-woman show. Mia Wasikowska is enthralling in the role of Robyn. She provides a delicate performance that works extremely well within the picture's tone. Even though Robyn feels far removed from the audience for the majority of the picture, Wasikowska still somehow manages to make this an intimate representation that will surely draw audiences in. Adam Driver does a fine job as the photographer, Rick. He doesn't do much to impress by himself, although his interactions with Wasikowska are quite engrossing. They have a complex relationship that allows the actors to play with the chemistry between the two characters. Both performances work extremely well within the context of the picture.
The film's pacing may feel entirely rushed, although director John Curran manages to deliver a wonderfully inspired atmosphere. The color palette utilizes earthy tones, which work extremely well within the setting of the deserts in West Australia. When Robyn is alone with the animals in the desert, Curran delivers a magical, yet treacherous tone that keeps our eyes glued to the screen. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, as it displays how beautiful and dangerous nature can be. Curran's visual style is absolutely brilliant through every step that Robyn takes on this adventure.
Tracks has all of the makings of a tremendous personal journey. However, its emotional impact is greatly hindered by the distance that the film holds its audiences at. Even by the time that the credits are rolling, we still don't feel as if we truly understand Robyn, and we most certainly don't feel as if we went along on this seemingly impossible journey. Yet, the feature's simplicity works, as it allows each viewer to have their own experience with the content. At least Mia Wasikowska delivers the performance that was called for, and director John Curran's visual direction exceeds all expectations. Tracks takes too many shortcuts, leaving us without the complex journey that we were craving. Rent it.