In lesser hands, Tracks might have been a mawkish lesson about the indomitable power of the human spirit, an against-all-odds epic with a major name connected to rev up box office torque and with the facts left trampled underfoot.
Instead, director John Curran takes a beautifully understated approach to the remarkable true story of how, aged 25, Australian woman Robyn Davidson took a 1,700 mile solo trek across the Australian desert in 1977.
With only four camels and her dog, she set out on a nine-month odyssey of extremes, both physical and spiritual, that did indeed prove the indomitable power of the human spirit. However, the epiphanies are never overdone and in the lead role, Mia Wasikowska is superb, the searing heat turning her skin raw and blistered as she walks ever on, a tiny figure, dwarfed by an almost alien landscape.
One of the great strengths of Tracks is that it's not to afraid to show that the prickly and complex Davidson could be very hard work indeed. She seems to revel in her existentialism and her actual reasons for the journey are left largely unexplored ("Because it's there" she shrugs at one point to her incredulous friends). We are, however, left in no doubt that she rejects the conventions of society and exercises a tetchy Garboesque hauteur under her tomboy demeanour.
Click on the video link above to watch Alan Corr's interview with Mia Wasikowska.
Along the way, Davidson deals with attacking bull camels and poison dumped by unethical industrialists, but it is the kindness of strangers that seem to present her with her greatest challenge. Interloping Outback tourists are an occasional obstacle and an overly eager National Geographic photographer (played with great presence by Adam Driver) is clearly another irritant to be tolerated as he drops in along the way.
It is certainly a beautiful looking film. Shot in a bleached-out glare, scenes are often impressionistic and dreamlike capturing the heat haze of the drifting narrative very well indeed. The vastness of the Australian wilderness has already proved an irresistible draw for the likes of Nicolas Roeg in Walkabout and for Peter Weir with his haunting masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock and here, the parched and stark landscape is a dangerous and seductive place.
After great turns in Only Lovers Left Alive and The Double, Wasikowska really is becoming a force to be reckoned with and her still and powerful performance here marks her out for greater things to come.