One of my all-time favourite films is Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971). It stars Jenny Agutter, Lucien Roeg and David Gulpilil and it is loosely based on Edward Bond’s free adaptation of James Vance Marshall’s novel, The Children.
It’s a poignant, deeply moving, profound, beautifully-filmed, well-acted film classic.
Here’s the trailer for it:
Plot synopsis (includes spoilers): A teenage girl (Agutter) and her younger brother (Roeg) are left to fend for themselves in the Australian outback after their father drives them out there in his car for a picnic, and then kills himself. The children do their best to survive, but they are ill-equipped for the harshness of the outback. An aborigine boy (Gulpilil) gives them some help, leads them to a deserted house, where, after a ceremonial dance, he hangs himself. The boy and the girl follow the road to an abandoned mine, where a solitary employee tells them which way they need to go to find civilisation. The film ends a few years later with the girl, now a woman, thinking back to her outback idyll.
The mine scene is hauntingly beautiful and quite poignant, and the girl thinking back to her ordeal in a romanticised way is perfect.
The film ends with a quote from an A. E. Houseman poem:
Into my heart and air that kills
From yon far country blows;
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
There is now a very good Criterion Collection DVD of Walkabout available. It’s the best version of the film that there is.
If you haven’t seen Walkabout yet – you should perhaps try it. If you’ve seen it already, you could try watching it again. It certainly won’t be wasted time.