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23/11/14

This film came and went at the cinema without making much of a splash. Catching up with it on DVD, I found myself wishing I’d managed to see it on the big screen, because its dazzling depictions of the Australian outback are one its strongest features and there are scenes here that are genuinely jaw dropping.

It’s based on the autobiography of Robyn Davidson, who as a teenager in the 1970’s, decided to walk across the Australian desert, (a trip of some 1,700 miles which took her nine months to complete), with just four camels and a dog for company. Quite why she chose to do so remains something of a mystery, as Davidson, as portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, remains something of an enigma throughout, a young woman who shuns the company of her peers and clearly possesses incredible courage and determination. Her only human company for the trip are encounters with aborigines and the occasional meeting along the route with photo journalist, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver). His interest in the trip obtained Davidson’s funding from National Geographic and he is required to provide photographic evidence, but apart from one furtive sexual encounter in the desert, he’s mostly treated with the general contempt she doles out to everyone else.

There’s not much of a story arc here. The film unfolds slowly, almost hypnotically, as Davidson walks further and further into the wilderness, suffering thirst, sun burn, hallucinations  and a series of flashbacks based around her troubled childhood. To its credit, it never palls and by the conclusion, you do feel as though you’ve been on the trip yourself. A series of photographs that accompany the credits show just how realistic the film is, with both Wasikowska and Driver looking uncannily like their real life counterparts.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

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