A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tracks -- which follows Australian Robyn Davidson's trek on foot for 2,000 miles in the desert -- is an inspiring, thought-provoking film that will easily appeal to teens. The vibe of the movie is deeply thoughtful and sometimes melancholy, but those very characteristics could appeal to young people who are trying to figure out who they are. Characters swear (including "s--t" and "f--k"), and there are a couple of kisses, as well as the implication that a couple has spent the night together. A woman's naked backside is seen. There's some early social drinking and a fraught scene in which an animal lover is forced to shoot at charging creatures in self defense. The main character is a steely, determined, adventurous woman who learns that she can always be there for herself when things get tough.
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What's the story?
Based on the same-named memoir by Robyn Davidson, TRACKS brings to life Davidson's 1700-mile journey, on foot, across the desiccated Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. To pay for her necessities, Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) signs a contract with National Geographic magazine and agrees to have a photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), shoot pictures of her at various stopovers. And along the way, she meets an aboriginal elder (Rolley Mintuma), who escorts her partway. But truly, Davidson would rather be alone with her camels, whom she's trained to carry her gear, and her beloved dog, Diggity.
Is it any good?
Wasikowska inhabits the character of Robyn Davidson so completely in Tracks that it's difficult to know where the role ends and she begins. (The fact that she looks a lot like Davidson, as documented in the National Geographic articles that traced her passage, is almost beside the point.) Her elation is tangible, her anguish profound. The actress' subtly calibrated performance is so grounded -- no histrionics, no overplaying -- that it's hard to believe she didn't actually live through such a journey. That's what makes Tracks such a memorable film. That and the exquisite footage that director John Curran and cinematographer Mandy Walker capture of the desert at its harshest and most sublime. Davidson is but a tiny speck in some frames -- and a mighty giant struggling to command the elements, and her own demons, in others.
Perhaps the one complaint with Tracks is that its beginning is somewhat belabored by the build-up to Davidson's trip -- perhaps necessary but still weaker in comparison to the rest of the film. In its entirety, though, it's pretty close to sublime. Tracks is demanding. It requires viewers to be patient and mindful and to be comfortable with silences. It's a small price to pay.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tracks' messages. What point is it trying to make? Is it successful? What audience do you think it's trying to reach? How can you tell?
Hollywood is enamored with journey movies. How is this one different from others in the genre?
Why do you think Robyn decided to leave everything and walk across the desert? Was it for herself or for something else? Do you think the film is true to her experience? Why might filmmakers change things in a fact-based story?
- In theaters: September 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 24, 2015
- Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
- Director: John Curran
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language
For kids who love adventure
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