GOING on a very long walkabout, Mia Wasikowska is alternately intriguing and infuriating in this adaptation of travel writer Robyn Davidson’s account of her 1,700-mile trek through the deserts of Western Australia with four camels and her dog.
Directed by: John Curran
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Emma Booth
Star rating: * * *
That’s perhaps more down to Davidson herself than Wasikowska’s committed performance. Embarking on her soul-searching journey to escape her “generation’s self-indulgent negativity” and – the film implies – come to terms with her troubled childhood (her mother committed suicide and she was sent to live with her aunt), Davidson’s wanderlust can’t help but come across as a little self-righteous, especially as she takes umbrage at the self-initiated publicity (she requested sponsorship from National Geographic) her journey generates. But as a kind of Antipodean companion piece to the similarly motivated journey at the heart of Sean Penn’s superior Into the Wild, Tracks is at least honest about the hardships of the environment and, despite Davidson’s desire to be alone, the film shows how the need for at least sporadic human contact becomes almost as necessary as water for her survival.
That company comes mostly in the form of Adam Driver (from HBO’s Girls) as Rick Smolan, the photographer whose images of Davidson inspired the look of the film, which really is striking – director John Curran and cinematographer Mandy Walker clearly have an innate understanding of how haunting desert landscapes can be.
Directed by: Ignacio Ferreras
Voices: Martin Sheen, George Coe, Matthew Modine
Star rating: * * * *
This Spanish adult animation film, based on a 2008 graphic novel of the same name by Paco Roca, offers a more mature take on ageing than the majority of live action films chasing the grey pound. Set in a care home for people with Alzheimer’s, it revolves around a retired bank manager called Emilio (voiced by Martin Sheen), newly arrived after his forgetfulness becomes too much for his family to bear. Quickly befriended by the rascally Miguel (George Coe), Emilio soon learns the routines of his new environs – and the desolate realities that lurk beneath their benevolent, brochure-ready front.
Told largely from Emilio’s point of view, the film makes judicious use of animation to reflect his deteriorating condition in a way that’s tender and heartfelt but leaves one in little doubt about the difficulties of his condition.
Directed by: Shan Khan
Voices: Aiysha Hart, Paddy Considine, Faraz Ayub
Star rating: * *
With ties to the National Front and a client base comprised of British-Pakistani families intent on killing tradition-flaunting female members, Paddy Considine’s racist bounty hunter in Honour seems like an intriguing starting point for a character. So it’s a shame Shan Khan’s London-set thriller about honour killings uses him as such a stock redemption-seeking anti-hero instead of attempting to be a little more nuanced about his complexities. The same goes for the film as a whole.
Deploying a flash-backing structure to initially strong effect, this tale of a young woman (Aiysha Hart) murdered by her family for the perceived shame her romantic travails have brought upon them (she’s fallen in love with a young Brit from a Punjabi family), descends eventually into a disappointing exercise in genre filmmaking, replete with rooftop shoot-outs, clunky dialogue and a specious twist that undermines its central message by suggesting a woman’s life is only really worth something if she’s with child.
Directed by: Erik Skjoldbjaerg
Voices: Wes Bentley, Aksel Hennie, Stephen Lang, Stephanie Sigman
Star rating: * *
Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjaerg made the original Insomnia, but his latest is more likely to send you to sleep. Set against the backdrop of the discovery of vast North Sea oil reserves off the coast of Norway, Pioneer is a would-be conspiracy thriller about the race to develop the deep-sea diving techniques required to exploit this black gold. Alas, the literally high-pressure world its diving protagonist Petter (Aksel Hennie) inhabits soon gives way to an airless thriller as he’s framed for an accidental death. Wes Bentley and Avatar’s Stephen Laing play the American reps of the US corporation bankrolling the expedition, but Skjoldbjaerg never turns any of this into a plausible plot.