Making the Grades
Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) seems possessed of a nomadic spirit. Leaving city life behind, the young woman travels to Alice Springs in central Australia with the crazy idea of walking across the 1700 miles of desert between the small village and the Indian Ocean—on her own of course (with the exception of an accompanying dog). It is a ludicrous idea and most of the townsfolk aren’t afraid to tell her so. But Robyn persists, even though she really can’t explain why she wants to make the trek.
Her first order of business is to secure some camels to use to carry her gear. These beasts of burden, imported to Australia in the late 1800s, now run wild in the area. Some of the locals make a living capturing and training the feral animals, so it seems easy enough for Robyn to offer labor in lieu of money to purchase them. Sadly, some reneged deals make this process harder than she originally expected. However, the resulting delays do give her more time to learn how to work with the cantankerous creatures and extra practice camping in the arid conditions of the Outback.
Her next hurtle is putting together the needed funds. A chance meeting with Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), a photographer with National Geographic, leads Robyn to ask the magazine to sponsor her expedition. They agree as long as Rick can periodically check in on her progress and snap a few pictures. Although his presence will intrude on her desired solitude, she accepts the arrangement counting the journalist and his camera as necessary evils in reaching her goal.
Based on a true story, this “road trip” consists of a string of experiences Robyn has on her perilous journey. Some challenges are natural, like the barren landscape’s lack of water, an unforgiving sun, and wild beasts. Other obstacles are man-made, including navigational errors, aboriginal people who don’t want her walking on their sacred ground, and bad encounters with litter humans have left behind. Of the few faces she meets along the way most are friendly—especially that of the visiting, handsome photographer. (It is implied by exchanged kisses and later bare shoulders seen above sleeping bags that the two have a sexual relationship.)
Other content issues to consider before sharing this movie with older children and teens will be the depiction of animals being killed (some for food and others for safety), rotting carcasses and the castration of a camel (the removed bloody organs are shown). A group of partying young adults drink and smoke. References to suicide are made. And, to beat the heat, Robyn removes her clothes frequently, exposing her back, buttocks and the side of her breast (the nudity is brief and obscured).
Plodding along just like the camels, Tracks likely won’t appeal to those seeking fast-paced action. Yet for more pondering viewers, the movie does chronicle the real nine-month adventure the “Camel Lady” embarked upon in 1977. The screenplay also provides a glimpse into the motivations of the woman’s wanderlust, and her secret yearning to find solace for her soul.
Release Date: Canada 20 June 2014 (Limited) / US 19 September 2014 (Limited)
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Tracks.
Learn more about Australia’s feral camels.
Robyn tells the National Geographic that one of the reasons she wants to make this trek is to prove, “An ordinary person is capable of doing anything.” Do you believe that? Robyn also suggests, figuratively, that a good solution to boredom is to “throw a grenade where you are standing.” What do you think she means?
Why do you think Robyn wants to be alone? Why does she sometimes reach out to Rick, and at other times push him away? How does the isolation of her trip affect the way she socializes with people?
How does Robyn show respect for the Aboriginal people and their sacred traditions? What is Rick’s attitude about these things? How do these people treat them in return?