Walkabout (1971) Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gulpilil, John Meillon Movie Review

Walkabout (1971)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Jenny Agutter in Walkabout (1971)

Surviving the Outabck

A teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother (Luc Roeg) thought they were going for a typically British picnic with their father in the Australian Outback. But things didn't turn out as they expected as the girl and her brother find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere with the school uniforms they are wearing, a picnic blanket and a meagre supply of food. With no idea how to get back they come across Boy (David Gulpilil) an aborigine on "Walkabout", a tradition for young men to survive off of the land for months on end. Whilst Boy helps the siblings to survive their lack of a common language makes communication hard especially as the girl is unable to explain to the boy they need to head back to civilization.

I wonder if in half a century's time those modern movies celebrated now as being artistic master pieces will still have the same power. From my experiences as I now watch much heralded movies from the 60s and 70s and wonder what all the fuss is about I can guess those modern master pieces won't hold up. And so with that said I come to "Walkabout", a Nicholas Roeg movie from 1971 which is loved by many but left me only half entertained.

David Gulpilil in Walkabout (1971)

Now there is no denying that "Walkabout" is visually stunning with Roeg delivering one glorious scene after another be it the beauty of the burnt sands and the setting sun to the wildlife which surrounds these nameless people as they walk together. And Roeg doesn't shy away from capturing the way of life in the outback when it comes to surviving off of the land, cleverly interweaving the killing of a wild animal with a butcher chopping up meat to lessen the sensationalism of seeing an animal killed.

But there is another side to "Walkabout" and I am not on about how these children have to learn to communicate. Nope I am on about the sexuality of the movie as we have the girl looking at the boy's almost naked body and the boy looking at the girl as she swims naked. Now for some this sexual tension and the suggestive nature of a crook of a tree will be fantastic but for me it far too often felt like the camera was leering over Jenny Agutter to the point of often bordering on making this feel sexually exploitative. Maybe back in 1971 this didn't come across that way but now it does and puts a dampener on all that is good about the movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Walkabout" is still an extremely beautiful movie and also an interesting one when it focuses on the survival aspect of being in the outback. But there is the sexual side of the movie which now borders on feeling exploitative which sadly spoils it for new audiences.