True story time: in 1977, 26-year-old Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) set out to cross Australia from Alice Springs to the West Australian Coast by camel. It wasn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment decision: she’d been training herself for a year to handle camels and then had to figure out a way to raise the money to pay for supplies. That proved to be harder than she’d hoped. Eventually, and reluctantly, she had to take a sponsorship from National Geographic magazine. During her nine month, 2,700 kilometre trip that followed, she faced rogue camels, gawking tourists, poisoned water, sacred land she wasn’t allowed to cross alone, regular and occasionally intrusive visits from National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) and days and days worth of very empty desert.
Director John Curran has a lot of great scenery to work with here and he takes full advantage of it, making this one of the most visually stunning Australian films of recent times – it almost works simply as a pure travelogue in some parts. Wasikowska fully inhabits the determined, self-sufficient Davidson, whose motivations have less to do with her past (her mother committed suicide) and more with a desire to be left alone. Psychologically and dramatically this is fairly straightforward; geographically though, it’s a journey you won’t soon forget.
Written by Anthony Morris