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Walkabout: The Criterion Collection

Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout, an adaptation of the celebrated novel by John Vance Marshall, follows the struggles of a fourteen year-old girl (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother (Lucien John, son of director Roeg) as they find themselves stranded in the Australian outback after an excursion with their father ends in tragedy. An Aborigine boy (David Gulpilil) appears. Perhaps about sixteen years old, he speaks no English. In fact, he's on his walkabout — an Aborigine right of manhood in which a boy spends six months living in the wilderness, surviving on his wits and hunting prowess. Realizing that his two new friends are stranded, he travels with them, teaching his companions (via demonstration) how to survive in the fierce world of the Outback. The young cast of Walkabout is spectacular, especially given the limits of the story. There is very little dialogue; the majority of the tale is told via images and gestures, and this lack of communication, especially between the Aborigine and the girl only serves to enhance the drama. In fact, the lack of communication between the Aborigine and the girl leads to tragedy in the film's final moments, after they are unable to make their desires and needs clear to each other. Does the girl misunderstand the Aborigine's intentions? Or does she simply refuse to act on them? It's part of the film's genius that we never find out for sure. Criterion's DVD edition of Roeg's masterpiece is absolutely splendid, containing several minutes of new footage, a fabulous widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, an audio commentary track by Roeg and Agutter, two theatrical trailers, and an essay by critic Roger Ebert on the film's enduring appeal. Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow

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