Mia Wasikowska puts in the performance of her career as Robyn Davidson – a real-life adventurer who took a dog and four camels on a 1,700 mile trek across Western Australia. The dangers include dehydration, sunstroke and the marauding packs of feral camels that roam this unforgiving hinterland. But as this film is based on Davidson’s memoirs we already know the heroine makes it out alive.

For director John Curran, as it was for Davidson, this is all about the journey and not the destination. Curran and cinematographer Mandy Walker hypnotise us with some jaw-dropping shots of this otherworldly landscape. It is easy to see why for Robyn this seems to be, above all, a spiritual mission.

This is a young woman who is possessed with the idea pushing herself to the limit. She freely admits preferring the company of animals to people and early scenes of her serving gnarled Aussie geezers in a grotty Alice Springs boozer suggest a possible reason. It seems macho rural Australia in the mid 1970s really was no place for a ferociously independent young woman.

But Robyn can’t quite escape humanity entirely. To fund her trip she has to suffer occasional visits from smitten National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan. On the way she also sparks up a touching friendship with Eddy -  a wily, chatty and very funny Aboriginal elder who agrees to guide her through the region’s sacred sites.

But this is Wasikowska’s show. There are large chunks of the film where nothing much happens but the actress keeps us gripped regardless. Her deft performance suggests a girl who is both vulnerable and terrifyingly determinded to achieve her goal.

Still, we’re left guessing over what possessed this free spirit to risk her life on such a seemingly pointless task.
After seeing this achingly beautiful film, you’ll be very glad she did.


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