I’ve had the Australian film Tracks in my watch list on Netflix for quite some time. I finally watched it and I’m very glad I did. It’s an amazing film based on a true adventure.
Mia Wasikowska plays Robyn Davidson, the real woman who lived through this adventure and wrote about it in “National Geographic” and later in her book Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback. The book was published in 1980.
Robyn walked 1700 miles across Australia with nothing but 4 camels and her faithful dog, Diggity. She went from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. She spent months learning how to handle camels. She applied for sponsorship from National Geographic and got it.
Adam Driver plays the National Geographic photographer Rick. At first Rick annoys Robyn with his ceaseless jabbering. She wanted nothing more than to be alone. But Rick proves to be a valuable helper. He shows up every few weeks along the way to take photographs and brings needed items and water.
Mia Wasikowska made friends with the camels, but she did only “a three day camel boot camp.” She looked very comfortable working with them, in spite of that.
Along the way, Robyn met some wonderful people who lived in the areas she passed through. People driving by on the roads were not so nice. They generally acted like assholes and tried to take her photo. She became known across West Australia as the camel lady. She received food, guidance, a night in a real bed, and entertainment from the people she met.
Robyn Davidson never explained why she felt compelled to undertake such a trek. When Mia Wasikowska was interviewed about the film by Indiewire, she said, “She’s never really explicitly said why she did the journey, but that’s totally for her to answer. I think people respond really differently to the circumstances of their lives; the traumas, or the hardships or even the good things. This idea that she just wanted to kind of simplify her existence and put herself in a situation where it brought her back to the basics of survival basically, which was just walking and attending to your needs in the moment. I can totally understand why you’d want to just simply things and get rid of the noise and get rid of the expectations — and just bring it back to: am I hungry right now? Do I make food? Just really basic survival.”
Although there were moments when Robyn felt defeated and almost gave up, she never did. Her determination was inspiring.
Tracks was directed by John Curran. The cinematography was beautiful. I felt as immersed in the landscape of sun and dust as Robyn herself. It must have been brutal dragging cameras and equipment through that environment, not to mention what the main actor had to do every day.
There are some photos of the real Robyn and other real characters photographed for National Geographic at the end of the film. I did a double take at the end of the film when they showed photos of Robyn Davidson from that 1977 trek – Mia Wasikowska looks very much like her in the film.