In 1977, a twenty-seven-year-old Australian woman named Robyn Davidson set out from Alice Springs to walk 2,700 kilometres of harsh desert to the Indian Ocean. Accompanied only by her dog and four camels, Davidson yearned for a solitary journey of self-discovery, and had no ambition other than to reach the ocean. She ultimately wrote about her desert adventure in her 1980 book Tracks, which became a cult favourite around the world and has now been beautifully adapted for the big screen by director John Curran (The Painted Veil, We Don’t Live Here Anymore).
Robyn (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) spends two hardscrabble years in the Alice Springs area learning how to train and care for camels (feral herds of which number in the thousands in Western Australia) in order to prepare for the epic trek. Finally ready to embark on her journey, she realizes she is woefully underfunded and, despite her desire for self-sufficiency, accepts a fee from National Geographic in exchange for a written feature on her travels. The magazine adds a condition: she must allow photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver, The F Word, television’s Girls) to photograph her at selected stops along the way.
As adapted by Marion Nelson, Tracks captures two arduous journeys: Robyn making her way slowly through the outback, and her (arguably more perilous) inner search. The motivation behind her decision to test her limits, and the reasons for her preference for animals over people, are subtly revealed during the chronicle of the arduous crossing. Curran casts the harsh, red-baked land as much more than just Robyn’s antagonist—at different points it woos her, threatens her, comforts her, steals from her, and submits to her, and we feel privileged to share the journey.