Year: 2014
Production Co: See-Saw Films
Director: John Curran
Writer: Marion Nelson/Robyn Davidson
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

I wasn't going to bother seeing this movie until the swelling, beautiful musical crescendo in the trailer convinced me there'd be something breathtakingly profound in it. Seems I should have listened to my instincts. It's not a bad film, it's just a bit pointless.

Not to belittle what happened in real life that this story is based on – a young city woman deciding to walk from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean by herself in the mid seventies might as well have decided to grow another head.

But Robyn Davidson (played here by a parched, sun-blasted Wasikowska) indeed did something extraordinary in walking almost 3,000 kilometres across the desert with only four camels and her dog.

It's just that the movie is more a collection of scenes than a story. Each one is like a mini-drama that's introduced, played out and wrapped up in rapid succession before moving onto something else – from the advancing bull camels she's been told to shoot without hesitating to getting lost in low dunes looking for the compass she's dropped somewhere.

The film applies the same approach to any themes it raises. Concepts are introduced and never revisited or advanced to any resolution that inform on (or are influenced by) the story. Is Robyn a loner who hates the white noise and society and just wants to disconnect? If she is it's never explained, addressed or resolved.

It might have something to do with the flashbacks to her learning about her mother's death, but that's kept too abstract to mean much.

And when it seems to be loneliness that drives her into the arms of the National Geographic photographer Rick (Driver) shadowing her in return for sponsorship, she then goes straight back to treating him as a contemptible intrusion to her solitude.

Another problem is that even with so much elbow-room for the characters and their feelings to take flight, much of it's still muddy. How does Rick come to turn up at her bush shack with a bunch of her friends for a send-off party? How does he know her (or them) and turn into her official picto-biographer when she's written to NatGeo quite separately asking for sponsorship (and don't get me started on how badly she treats him when she's only there by the good grace of his employer)?

The landscapes and photography are beautiful, but that's more to do with the beauty of the Australian outback than any aesthetic choice (though there are some inventive high-aerial shots). When all's said and done she sets off, arrives and that's it. No doubt an incredible – obviously cinematic – achievement, but the movie just seems to search for deeper characterisations and themes and then fails to flesh them out.

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