The first reviews posted for John Curran’s true-life adventure Tracks after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival are raves, with one notable exception.

Mia Wasikowska gets plenty of plaudits for her performance as Robyn Davidson, the then 25-year-old Queenslander who embarked on a 2,700 km trek across the outback with four camels in 1977.

Mandy Walker’s cinematography is widely praised, as is Adam Driver’s portrayal of Rick Smolan, the gawky American photographer who documented the journey for National Geographic.

Two influential critics are optimistic about the B.O. prospects of the film which doesn’t yet have a North American deal and is due to open in Australia in March.

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney sees the film adapted by Marion Nelson from Davidson’s novel as a “natural for significant exposure through a top-tier specialty label.”

Variety’s Justin Chang said, “Prestigious fall festival berths [in Venice, Telluride and Toronto] should help court critical attention and discerning sales interest for this classy production en route to a solid art-house destination.”

That suggests Tracks is likely to wind up in the US with Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics or perhaps the Weinstein Co., which released The Sapphires and is adept at exploiting films with the potential to crossover from specialised screens to mainstream cinemas.

Rooney describes the picture produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning as “alternately haunting, inspiring and dreamily meditative… a visually majestic film of transfixing moods and textures.” Of the lead actress he said, “Required here to carry the film more singlehandedly than in any role since Jane Eyre, she does arguably her most riveting screen work to date.”

Chang opined, “Anchored by a fine and flinty performance from Mia Wasikowska, director John Curran’s gorgeously rendered adventure saga succeeds not only in capturing the harshness and wild beauty of Davidson’s journey, but also in mapping a delicate interior pathway into the heart of this most atypical explorer.”

Thompson on Hollywood’s Matt Mueller declared, “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.”

One dissenting voice is The Guardian’s Xan Brooks, who sniffed, “Tracks trudges into competition at the Venice film festival on the basis of some spellbinding scenery, a gritty if faintly one-note performance from the talented Mia Wasikowska, and not a whole lot else.”

As Davidson marches towards the ocean, Brooks said, the narrative goes “walkabout without a compass, without much of a purpose besides taking the view. The tale wanders lazily in endless, pretty circles.”


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