- Gareth Crook
Walkabout (1971) - 7/10
I’ve watched Walkabout once before, about 20 years ago and it certainly left an impression, although rewatching now, I’m not entirely sure why. Bear with me though. It’s a very simple story, beautifully shot. Artfully shot. Nicolas Roeg painting a bleak yet deeply intriguing narrative about differing cultures, colonialism and how people function in the confines of their own society. It feels almost functionary. No one has a name, but this doesn’t make them any the less personable. In fact it helps cut to the core of their characters. There’s no fluff. We’re in Australia and aside a short introductory scene in Sydney where we meet a young family. It’s all shot out in the desolate outback of the Northern Territories. The father (John Meillion) takes his two kids, still in their school uniforms out to this dry, barron world in his VW Beetle. He’s clearly in the midst of a breakdown and tries killing them, before succeeding killing himself, leaving his elder daughter (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg, yes related) to try and survive. It’s a very arresting opening act that sets the tone to follow, in an unforgiving environment, where both children remain remarkably calm. The boy has been spared the sight of his fathers demise, but he’s acutely aware of the peril they’re in. Although despite their situation, emotions are never really shown. Agutter plays her role very primly too. A product of an all girl education, she’s surprisingly resourceful, to a point. The scenery is gorgeous. Stunning desert vistas, open plains, soaring mountains and a whole host of lizards, bugs, snakes, a very cute possum and lots of concerning creatures that can bite you. They were never intending to go Walkabout of course, but a young aboriginal man they encounter (David Gulpilil) certainly is. If you don’t know, this is a rights of passage sort of thing for young aboriginal men entering adulthood, where they must go out into the outback and fend for themselves for 6 months, living off the land. A pretty tough initiation and one that the city dwellers are soon struggling with. There are lessons quickly learnt. Events clearly passing judgement on so called civilised society and generally the whole thing has an eerie sense of attrition. Although a great film. It’s not without its problems. For one, there’s a fair bit of needless nudity. Agutter I think was 18 when filming, but she’s clearly playing a school girl and the lens does leer. There’s also a lot of animals being killed. This is less of an issue, it’s always for food, but still I’m not overly keen on seeing Kangaroos killed. On the whole though this is still a good film for the patient film viewer, happy to look beyond simply what’s on screen and dig past the desert dust. I’ll be honest, it’s not quite a great as I recall and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it might just be that both children are actually quite annoying.