Yesterday’s eruption of excitement over Alfonso Cuaron’s opening night feature Gravity got a lighter counterpoint this morning when news trickled out over the first competition title, John Curran’s Tracks. Fortunately it wasn’t a sharp shift in quality, given that critics are reacting quite favorably to the desert odyssey, in which Mia Wasikowska plays a woman on a 1,700 mile trek across the Australian deserts, accompanied only by her camels, her dog, and Adam Driver of Girls popularity. While nowhere year the fever pitch response Gravity received, it’s a nice taster to get us into the smaller, but no less significant films of the festival. Check out our round-up of reviews listed below:
Justin Chang of Variety:
Curran deploys the formal conventions of the travelogue ably enough, using maps and montages early on to chart Robyn’s pace of about 20 miles per day. The trip’s episodic progression across hundreds of miles of dry, cracked terrain imparts a necessary sense of monotony without devolving into tedium, conveying each new peril, as well as each unexpected blessing, in vivid cinematic language. From the hazards of training a temperamental camel or navigating a dusty windstorm to the pleasures of diving into a man-made oasis after weeks without bathing, Robyn’s experiences gain heft and resonance from Curran’s direction, which patiently teases out individual moments rather than rushing to get them over with.
Oliver Lyttelton of The Playlist:
Curran again demonstrates why he’s something of an unsung talent, with truly accomplished and impressive filmmaking, and on top of her turn in “Stoker” earlier in the year, Wasikowska reminds us all that she’s in possession of one of the most individual screen presences of her generation. The film’s undoubtedly a gorgeous look at the Australian outback, but those looking for deeper nourishment will be left a touch disappointed.
Guy Lodge of In Contention:
Good things come to those who wait, and the (very) good thing in this case is Mia Wasikowska, the tranquil-faced Australian actress who, at 23, is even younger than Davidson was when she embarked on her impossibly possible journey. Pale and birch-like, possessed of an unusual beauty that doesn’t come separate from an innate intelligence, she has successfully built her career so far on a kind of cool but relatably reticent quality: through starring roles in the likes of “Jane Eyre” and “Stoker”, she’s become a go-to girl for characters who are nobody’s go-to girls. As such, she’s ideal for the role of Robyn, a woman who doesn’t mean to be antisocial, but has strictly rationed practical use for the company – social, professional or even sexual – of others. “How can you tell a nice person to just crawl into a hole and die?” she asks a sympathetic benefactor at one point. In Wasikowska’s quiet phrasing, it’s not a facetious question.
Matt Mueller of Thompson on Hollywood:
Wasikowska gets the balance of her performance exactly right. Still and reactive rather than ostentatious or emotional (apart from a tragic moment near the end), the actress conveys Davidson’s fiercely private, misanthropic nature while never losing our sympathy or admiration. It’s a model of restraint just like Curran’s film, which eschews any showy spiritual awakenings or climactic crescendos – a far cry from the ramped-up version apparently planned for Julia Roberts (according to Davidson herself, that “gobsmackingly awful” script contained a dreaming initiation ceremony in which Aborigines carried Robyn naked around a fire). One imagines the author will concur that Curran, Wasikowska and the rest of “Tracks”‘ creative army have done her story proud with their modest but compelling approach.
PREVIOUS VENICE REVIEW ROUND-UPS:
Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron)