There’s nothing like a good survival tale.  Much like two of last year’s defining man vs. nature films, All is Lost and Gravity, director John Curran’s latest feature, Tracks, pits its protagonist against the elements—in this case, the harsh Australian Outback—in the hopes that she will emerge from it all (relatively) unscathed.  

 

But unlike Robert Redford or Sandra Bullock’s lead characters, for whom disaster strikes by surprise, the star of Tracks (played by Mia Wasikowska) undertakes her wild journey intentionally, hurtling head first into an abyss she so desires.  Robyn (Wasikowska) does not seek to set a record or prove anything in particular, she simply yearns for solitude.  Her personal journey is adapted from the pages of the real-life autobiography of Robyn Davidson, an Australian woman who crossed a vast swath of desert in 1977 accompanied by four wild camels and her dog, Diggity.  Davidson’s 1700 mile trek to the Indian Ocean was famously documented and funded by National Geographic Magazine, who sent their own photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) to meet Robyn at several intervals along the way.

 

Robyn Davidson embodies an introvert at war with herself; fiercely independent, yet desperately lonely at times, the young adventurer often prefers the company of animals to that of other humans.  Curran uses dreamlike flashback sequences to reveal clues about Robyn’s past, perhaps in an effort to explain how she came to be the way she is.  They don’t feel necessary, though.  Wasikowksa is captivating enough as a performer, capturing Robyn’s vulnerabilities amidst a hostile environment, and any exposition about her past seem superfluous.  Adam Driver, an actor who is quickly becoming a household name, breathes comedic energy into the story as Rick Smolan, the buoyantly snap-happy photographer sent to cover Robyn’s journey.  Robyn often bristles at Rick’s upbeat chattiness, and some of the film’s most interesting moments are when the two do connect, if only for a moment.  Both Driver and Wasikowska are excellent actors, making one wish for the film to delve even deeper into their evolving relationship as counterparts in this journey.  And what a journey it is–Curran’s Tracks is stunningly shot, capturing the stark beauty of the dry Aussie bush.

 

Tracks opens in U.S. theaters Friday, September 19.