Power of a real-life epic comes through in 'Tracks'

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Editor's note:The Metro Detroit opening of "Tracks" has been postponed until Oct. 3.

There's a directness, a wonderful matter-of-fact power to "Tracks" that's too rare in true-life epics these days. It doesn't have to sell you anything — its story is just plainly amazing.

That would be the story of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who, in the mid-'70s, decided she was going to walk 1,700 miles across a hard, desolate Australian landscape, much of it desert, to the ocean.

In preparation she trained three camels to carry her gear, and for companionship she had her faithful dog, Diggity. As luck would have it, she met a photographer named Rick (Adam Driver) who helped her land a sponsorship with National Geographic magazine. The trade-off? Rick got to meet her at points along the way and take pictures for the mag.

Those pictures transformed Davidson into a world-wide celebrity and inspired other photographers as well as regular citizens to cross the path of the "camel lady."

But Davidson wasn't in it for the fame — to the extent she could she shunned cameras, even Rick's. And to the film's grand credit, it doesn't offer up any corny motivations for Davidson. She likes being alone. She prefers the company of animals. Her childhood was a mess, but that's too simplistic — she really just wants to do something extraordinary.

Which she does, encountering danger regularly, relying on Aboriginal guides to help make her way through sacred grounds, meeting eccentric locals and walking on, on, on.

Wasikowska, squinting into the sun, freckles baked into her face and covered in dirt most of the time, is just the right ego-less and enigmatic actress for the role. Shooting this film must have been extraordinary; watching it certainly is.




Rated PG-13 for thematic

elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language

Running time: 112 minutes