What to Watch
On the first part of our journey, I thought we’d take a little trek through the Australian outback. Tracks (2013) follows the real life journey of Robyn Davidson and is based on her book of the same name. In 1977, accompanied by her dog, Diggity, and four camels (no horses involved!), she completed a 2,700 km journey from Alice Springs to the West Australian coast. The movie offers little explanation of her motivations, though she does mention that she likes being alone …
In the desert, you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
Tracks had a long production history and in previous incarnations, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were considered for the lead role. Thankfully it eventually fell to Mia Wasikowska, who truly inhabits the role. She plays Robyn with an aloofness and an ironed willed personality. You feel the effects of the journey through her red and cracking complexion. Remember that this is 1977 and it predates the advent of Slip, Slop, Slap, an Australian campaign to build awareness of sun safety – no sunscreen in sight in the movie.
Robyn is not exactly alone through this journey, and is accompanied in part by Mr. Eddy (Rolley Mintuma), an Aboriginal elder. He takes her through his Dreaming country of the Jameson Ranges. She is also sporadically met along the way, by National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) – who offers an unvalued and very bemused love interest.
Her true loves are Diggity and her four cantankerous camels. As with all movies made in the Australian outback, cinematography forms an important aspect. Mandy Walker brings a wonderfully hazy and dreamy quality to the desert landscape.
An obvious candidate for a companion piece with Tracks would be Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 masterpiece Walkabout. Given the director’s recent passing, it would seem apt, but spending another 100 minutes in the Australian desert seems overly taxing. Instead, I would suggest spending 106 minutes alone with Robert Redford. All Is Lost (2013) takes place entirely on the ocean …
The ocean is a desert with its’ life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Redford plays ‘our man’ – an unnamed protagonist who awakes to find that his yacht has collided with a shipping container. Unfortunately his bad luck is not about to end. We spend the entire movie as ‘our man’ calls on all his mariner skills and determination to survive. Robyn Davidson should have taken up sailing, for in the middle of an ocean – you are truly alone.
There are not many actors who have the charisma to carry an entire movie entirely on their own – but this is Robert Redford! We are given little back story though he does mention at the start that he wished he had treated his family better. There are times during the movie when he struggles to speak having seemingly lost the art and the need.
J.C. Chandor writes and directs this piece and he provides little to distract us from simply experiencing the movie – with ‘our man’.