Tracks

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
Profanity: Some strong language, one F-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Animals and humans in peril, sad animal death, references to suicide
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: September 26, 2014

tracks-movie-posterIn 1977, a 27-year-old woman named Robyn Davidson took a dog and four camels and walked 1700 miles across the Australian desert. A National Geographic photographer met up with her four times to cover it for the magazine. That led to a book, the international best-seller Tracks.  And now it is a film, starring Mia Wasikowska, with Adam Driver as photographer Rick Smolan, and directed by John Curran, whose previous films (“The Painted Veil,” “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”) show a gift for letting the environment be an essential part of the story-telling.  The result is a journey set in surroundings of punishing conditions but spectacular beauty that manages to be meditative and internal, and all the more illuminating for it.

This is the first of two movies based on soul-restoring real-life hikes taken by real-life women that we will be seeing this fall, both based on best-selling books, with Reese Witherspoon’s more high-profile “Wild” coming out December 5, 2014.  While there are flashbacks to suggest that Davidson took on the trip to deal with some family losses, in real life Davidson has not just refused to give a reason; she has insisted that it is a foolish question to ask.  She walked across Australia for the same reason that Mallory climbed Mount Everest.  “Because it’s there.”  Her version of a response: “Why not?”  It’s pretty clear why not.  It is very dangerous.  The terrain is blisteringly hot and with very little water.  If she is injured or lost, no one will be there to help her.  But she is determined to go, indenturing herself with camel dealers to learn how to train camels and earn some to take with her.  When the first one cheats her out of what is due to her, she reluctantly agrees to allow National Geographic to sponsor the trip, though it means she will have to allow Smolan to meet up with her four times to take photos.

This is not the usual travelogue, with adventures that include quirky characters, daunting dangers, and lessons learned, though all are there.  Along the way, she meets up with Aboriginal people, including one who serves as a guide for a part of the journey because it includes sacred land which she is not permitted to travel on without him.  She comes across a farmhouse, and the couple who live there welcome her in a beautifully understated manner.

You’d also expect spectacularly gorgeous and exotic scenery, and that is there, too.  And, with just one person on screen much of the time, a lot of voiceover narration, though that’s not too bad.  Most of all, this is a spiritual saga, a pilgrimage.  Davidson wanted to be alone — she admits that she is much more comfortable with animals than with people.  And she wanted to accomplish something difficult by herself.  It almost seems at moments as though we are intruding in her beautiful solitude.  But mostly, we are sharing it, and feel grateful for the privilege.

Parents should know that this film includes sad and disturbing material including suicide of a parent (off-screen) and putting down animals, dangerous activities, peril, animals shot and poisoned, some disturbing images of dead animals, some strong language (one f-word), and non-sexual nudity (female rear).

Family discussion: Why was Robyn happiest away from people? What was the hardest moment of her trip and why?

If you like this, try: other movies set in the Australian desert, including “Walkabout” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”

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Action/Adventure Animals and Nature Based on a book Based on a true story Drama Movies -- format

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