Even though it’s taken over a year to get to screens (the film debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival before being picked up by The Weinstein Company), you shouldn’t anticipated any kind of a lesser product out of Tracks. This movie, while potential about to be overshadowed by Wild, is a very worthwhile bit of cinema. Director John Curran captures some absolutely gorgeous imagery in telling what’s admittedly a fairly simple story. The cinematography surely boosts the flick on the whole, but it’s also pumped up by a top notch lead performance from Mia Wasikowska that’s very much the heart and soul of the picture. Adam Driver continues to impress with a small supporting role here, but this is Wasikowska’s show without question. Curran simply lets her do her thing, capturing it with a ton of beauty. Things slow down a little more than I’d like in the middle, but the first act is very compelling and the final third of the film should be exactly what you’d want. I didn’t overtly love the flick, but I did like it quite a bit. Tracks is the sort of movie that’s perhaps a half step down from it needed to be in order to be an awards contender, but that takes nothing away from its quality.
Based on the memoir of the same name, we follow a young woman named Robyn (Wasikowska as an adult, with Lily Pearl playing her in flashbacks) as she goes on a a trek through Australia. The journey will take her throughout the deserts of the Western part of the continent, a walk that would total 1700 miles in all. She undertook this quest of hers, much to the bewilderment and consternation of others, I might add, with only the assistance of four camels and a rather faithful dog by her side. At certain points, she’s joined by a photographer named Rick (Driver), who’s shooting her for National Geographic after they decide to sponsor her, but for the most part, she’s alone. We see her initially working to earn money and to learn about/acquire camels, but once she’s off, there’s a lot of her being on her own. I’ll leave it to you to see the film and find out why she’s on this trek, but it’s never boring, I can promise you that. The movie slows down at times, yes, but it never reaches the point of no return.
I can safely say that without Mia Wasikowska, this flick does not work. She’s both hard as a rock and vulnerable as a baby bird here, which is what she needs to be for the role. You buy her completely as someone who would go on this absurd journey, especially when you discover her reasons for doing so. A different actress wouldn’t have sold you on the premise and led to way too much of a suspension of disbelief, something that would have doomed the project. Luckily, Wasikowska is more than up to the challenge. I don’t think she’ll be in play for an Academy Award nomination, but she could very well pop up here and there on the precursor circuit, and rightfully so. She’s terrific and really pulls you through. In the main supporting role, Adam Driver is very solid as a more rational counterpoint as well as Robyn’s only real human companion after a time. He’s not going to grab too much attention for the part, but he helps the cause out. Between this, winning Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for Hungry Hearts, and also This Is Where I Leave You (also opening this week), Driver is having a good month. The cast also includes small parts for Rainer Bock, Emma Booth, Robert Coleby, Jessica Tovey, and Melanie Zanetti (plus the aforementioned Pearl), but Wasikowska is the crown jewel of the project.
John Curran and cinematographer Mandy Walker are able to capture a number of striking images over the course of the running time, giving us more than just the top notch Wasikowska performance to admire. Scribe Marion Nelson doesn’t necessarily give too much beyond the surface on the page, but Curran and company elevate it. Nelson’s work is bad at all, but Curran does more with it than someone else might otherwise have. Especially when it comes to Walker’s visuals, there’s plenty to be struck by. If there’s a quibble, it’s that the pacing is inconsistent, but it doesn’t damage anything in a notable way.
Overall, Tracks doesn’t tread (no pun intended) any new ground, but it tells a tale in a more than worthy fashion. Especially for the Wasikowska performance, this is a film that’s well worth seeing. The movie could have had a slightly better pacing throughout the second half, but it’s not a huge issue. This is a flick that many of you will enjoy if you seek it out. Tracks is time well spent.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!