Based on memoirs written in the late 70s which have been gestating as a film project pretty much ever since, this is a strange dramatic reconstruction of a woman’s (mainly solo) journey across Australia that finds considerable aesthetic wonder in its environments and scenery, without ever really making a proper film out of it all. What that means exactly is difficult to explain, and might possibly be irrelevant. Essentially, this is a document of a woman’s trek across a mostly desert landscape, but which doesn’t really go into her motivations for doing so, and doesn’t seem to draw any conclusions from it all. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, indeed the whole point of the film might be that the journey itself is more important than what happens before or after it. It’s so successful at conveying such a specific mood and sense of place, and so beautiful in the way it does so, that its lack of more traditional filmic elements like character and plot only slightly mar the experience of watching it, rather than ruin it altogether.

In a way it’s great to see a lead female character take full agency over her actions, heading out into the desert on her own independent terms rather than as an adjunct to a male character, and Mia Wasikowska does a great job at conveying this sense of individualism, drive and determination with very little in the actual script to work with. The rest of the film seems to just flow around her, a bit like a travel documentary (which, being based on travel memoirs, is in some ways exactly what the film is) that only occasionally flirts with narrative and drama. There are hints of some kind of rejection of patriarchy (the protagonist seems to react negatively when men try and help her), but the evocation of the danger and beauty of nature is the primary focus and point of interest – a sense of Antipodean wonder that evokes the likes of Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Dreamlike evocation of the Australian wilderness8
Underdeveloped plot and characterisation6
Mia Wasikowska (was I the only one who didn't know she was Australian?)9
Positive, independent treatment of its female protagonist9
Never quite escaping the feel of a travelogue5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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