The true story behind this movie just about makes up for its oddly flat tone, which never quite captures either the grandeur of the Australian Outback or the deeper emotions of the people on-screen. The acting is superb, but director John Curran (The Painted Veil) opts for a warm, slick style when something much spikier was called for.
It's the story of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who in 1975 decided to walk nearly 2,000 miles from Alice Springs to the western coast as a way of connecting with her explorer father, who vanished on a similar trek. She needs at least three camels to carry her supplies, so she spends nearly a year working for camel dealers (Rainer Bock and John Flaus) learning how to care for the animals and earning cash to buy them. She also gets sponsorship cash from National Geographic magazine, which sends photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) along to document the trip, which is a series of amazing encounters, beautiful landscapes and colourful local customs.
Wasikowska is superb as the plucky young woman who drops out of society to take on this mind-boggling challenge. In a nicely understated performance, she conveys Robyn's steely courage and tenacity, as well as her reluctance to accept the help she needs. The most inspiring aspect of the story is Robyn's ultimate observation: "I'd like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything." So it's a bit frustrating that Curran keeps trying to turn her into a movie heroine, complete with sun-drenched childhood flashbacks and a tetchy romance with the always-terrific Driver.
Continue reading: Tracks Review
Even if the plot takes too long to come together, this film has a darkly foreboding tone that's thoroughly mesmerising, drawing us into its mysteries while touching on issues of race, religion and sexuality. It's a finely crafted film, although the filmmakers keep everything so enigmatic that we grow impatient to understand what's going on.
It centres on Australian photographer Isaac (Leslie), son of Greek immigrants who forbid their children from returning to the old country. Which of course makes them curious. Isaac's older brother Nico (Czokas) moved to Hungary years ago and never came back. And now that their father has died, Isaac decides to scatter his ashes in Greece and visit Nico. But when he gets to the ancestral village, he discovers that there's a curse on his branch of the family. It has something to do with a young Jewish boy during the war, and looking for answers in Paris and Budapest only deepens the mystery.
As Isaac travels around Europe he meets a wide variety of freaky characters who add to the film's unhinged mystery. These include his helpful Greek cousin Giulia (Skiadi) and her seductive friend Andreas (Samaras), a nutty woman (Fragos) who performs a psychic steam-reading, a Parisian couple (Balmer and Lebrun) who knew Isaac's father, an Arab woman (Bukstein) who's being trafficked, and Nico's cohort (Naor) in the drug-porn business. And there's also a homeless teen (Smit-McPhee) who seems to haunt Isaac wherever he goes.
Continue reading: Dead Europe Review
Emile Sherman and Academy Of Motion Pictures And Sciences - Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Gareth Unwin Los Angeles, California - 83rd Annual Academy Awards (Oscars) held at the Kodak Theatre - Press Room Sunday 27th February 2011