TORONTO -- At a film festival, when you're hoping to cram 20 or more movies into a week of nearly nonstop watching, by about Day 4 your brain goes into a fog -- all the faces and the stories start blurring together. I made it to Day 6. And then ...
Desperate to shake it off Tuesday night, I opted for the Zen meditation of "Tracks," the new film from John Curran. If you've seen the director's "The Painted Veil," you know he has a way with meditative beauty in even the most difficult of circumstances. That film was about a troubled marriage and a cholera outbreak in China.
So start with Curran's sensibility. Add in the ethereal actress Mia Wasikowska, the Australian desert, a dog and four seriously captivating camels, and you get a movie that takes you out of whatever place you are in.
The film is based on Robyn Davidson's book about her solo trek across 2,700 miles of the most rugged and hauntingly beautiful desert terrain the country has to offer. Davidson was 25 in the mid-70s when she took it on, searching to fill some of the empty places in her life. (Yes, there are shades of "Wild" in here).
Davidson's trek was shot by National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, played by Adam Driver. Like Wasikowska, who is also at the festival with "The Double," Driver -- the "Girls" bad boy -- has other films playing here. See how confusing things can be?
Wasikowska is particularly good on the enigma front. Mystery simply lives in her face. We see a lot of that here. Her sunburned face, the wind-swept and scorched desert, those shrub-crunching camels – all captured in breathtaking detail, so a shout out to director of photography Mandy Walker. While the imagery is sweeping, Marion Nelson's script pares Davidson's book down to the bone. Only the essentials survive.
Within moments of the movie's start, the fog lifted -- at least for a while.