Telluride: 'Tracks' Follows Mia Wasikowska Through the Desert in Another Impressive Perf


A young woman embarks on a 1,700-mile journey across the deserts of Western Australia with the company of her four camels and one dog. 

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- As the 40th Telluride Film Festival winds to a close today, many are rushing to catch buzzed-about films that they missed due to scheduling conflicts earlier in the fest. For me, that list included John Curran's Tracks, which arrived here after premiering at Venice last Thursday, was picked up for U.S. distribution by The Weinstein Co. on Sunday and played for a fifth and final time this afternoon at the Chuck Jones Cinema, where I finally caught up with it.

PHOTOS: Telluride Film Festival: The Films

The joke around town this week is that Telluride is offering up a Life & Death Situations Trilogy this long weekend: All Is Lost, about an old man who struggles to survive in the ocean after his boat is wrecked; Gravity, about a middle-aged man and middle-aged woman who struggle to survive in space after their spacecraft is wrecked; and Tracks, about a young woman who struggles to survive in the desert because -- well, she wanted to see if she could.

Curran's slow-burning drama is an adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s 1980 book about her epic 1700-mile journey across the Australian desert in 1977. Davidson, a loner with a dark background who just wanted to get away from people, conducted the trek on-foot and with the company of only four camels, a dog and only periodic visits from impish National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan. In the film, Davidson and Smolan are played by the young up-and-comers Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, respectively.


Driver plays a character who is as sweet as his Girls character is sour, but he's only in the pic for a relatively small amount of time. It's Wasikowska's show -- she's in every scene -- and she more than holds her own. It's among the 23-year-old's most mature turns yet, and required an unusual amount of courage and commitment -- from not shaving her armpits (don't worry, they're visible only briefly) to performing a prolonged nude take (don't get too excited, it's a long shot).

But because Tracks is rather small and very slow-burning,  the best actress field this year is already jam-packed and TWC  has a ridiculously large 2013 awards slate -- August: Osage County, Fruitvale Station, Grace of Monaco, The Immigrant, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Philomena, etc. -- Academy recognition is not realistically in the cards. Consequently, TWC is likely to hold the film's release until next spring.

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottFeinberg for additional news and analysis.