I don’t know why I didn’t expect to like this – maybe it was that nagging sense that so much these days is done with the book and movie in mind.
Popular media will never be able to satisfy the mob’s thirst for thrills and titillation and vicarious achievement (you can buy the T-shirt for $20).
Like when that girl sailed around the world to become the youngest person to do it – there has to be a better reason, surely?
None of which is meant to denigrate Robyn Davidson’s epic feat. Setting out in 1977 with her dog Dig and four camels, she walked 1,700 kilometres to the West Australian coast, wrote about it for National Geographic, expanded that piece into a best-selling book and, inevitably, we now have John Curran’s excellent screen adaptation of it.
There is a wickedly un-PC joke at the outset when, as Davidson, Mia Wasikowska is not permitted to take her camels through Uluru National Park because it is sacred ground, but the targets of wrathful humour are not atypically the fat tourists she encounters (who, in all likelihood, forked out the money to put her book at the top of the charts) and the paparazzi who converged on her (and, without whom, nobody would know who she was).
Curmudgeonly gripes aside, this is beautifully filmed, paced so as never to drag and richly atmospheric. I was also surprised by incidents of intense emotion – Davidson’s response to an aggressive approach by feral camels is heart-stopping, and Wasikowska’s reading of the moment doubly so.
In hindsight, it was at this point that the film got ‘real’ for me. Wasikowska is wonderful. Physical beauty, by encouraging the viewer to gaze dotingly on it, can often be a hindrance to deeper rapport, but Wasikowska subtly but firmly draws you into her world.
She’s great with the animals, too, behaving towards them with unforced familiarity.
Adam Driver, channeling Jeff Goldblum, provides pleasing romantic relief, but it’s all about the journey – and we’re all on one of them.
~ John Campbell