Review for Walkabout
Young English children Mary and her brother Peter are left stranded in the Australian outback after their father has unexpectedly gone mad and committed suicide. The two try to survive the walk home, but on the brink of starvation encounter an Aboriginal boy. The boy is currently on 'Walkabout' a ritual when he must survive off the land. The two clashing cultures try to help each other, but this may only end in tragedy.
This film is beautiful to look at and if you wanted a perfect look at Australia then you couldn't look any further than this film. You could almost play 'Spot the Animal' the number of shots we get of Kangaroos, Scorpions and Snakes. The music by John Barry is wonderful and despite the film initially not being well-received it is surprising that the photography and score of this film were not awarded in some way.
I will be honest I only ever remember watching this film before as I had a huge crush on Jenny Agutter who plays Mary. It is only now that I can appreciate how subtle her acting is and how well she works with Luc Roeg who plays her brother Peter. The sexual chemistry between her and David Gulpilil is also electric and the lack of communication between the two through language reminds me of the relationship between the Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel characters from The Piano.
Now, though the film looks amazing I would say that the biggest issue I have with the film is simply that nothing happens. You could cut this down to a thirty minute short and still tell the same story. The children get lost, meet the aboriginal boy who then hunts for them. Mary has an extended scene swimming naked in a pool, which serves no real purpose other than to highlight that she is indeed female.
Out of nowhere there is a bizarre section involving a weather balloon that only shows that when men are isolated with only one woman that they are sleazy and has no other purpose as does a scene with a white man exploiting the aboriginal people to make novelty statues. I found myself very restless watching the film and the constant cutscenes and juxtaposing of killing an animal with a butcher cutting up meat seems a little too on the nose to have the effect it is no doubt aiming at.
If you are a fan of this film then this set is fabulous with multiple extras. A Commentary with star Luc Roeg and critic David Thompson is great and really helps to tell some of the stories about the making and reception of this film.
Interviews with Producer Si Litvinoff is great as is the ones with Luc Roeg and Jenny Agutter. It is clear that they enjoyed working on the film and it had a profound effect on Agutter's career. There is also an interesting interview with Director Danny Boyle about his love for this film and Nicolas Roeg's work. If you have not seen any of his other films (Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth) this is a great introduction to a great Director.
Having died in 2018 the only contributions by Nicolas Roeg is an archive introduction which is nice and also a Q&A, also featuring Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg from 2011. These are all fabulous extras even if you are not a huge fan as they are hugely interesting to hear how this film was made.
Walkabout is a beautiful looking film and one that I appreciate as a piece of art. However, I would be lying if I said I got much enjoyment out of it. Not enough happens to make the film interesting to watch and at times the film just drags. That is not to say it is a bad film, it certainly isn't, it is just not a film I would make an effort to walkabout for.