Walkabout (1971)

walkabout poster 1971 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting movie with great locations and cast

Largely interpretational which could frustrate some

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Walkabout

Studio:  Max L. Raab Productions

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  May 16, 1971 (Cannes)/July 1, 1971 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

walkabout david gulpilil jenny agutter luc roeg

Just a nice day for a walk in the outback

When a boy (Luc Roeg), his older sister (Jenny Agutter), and their father (John Meillon) go for a picnic in the Australian outback, a shocking event sends the girl and her brother into the desert alone.  Lost, hungry, and thirsty, the children encounter an Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who helps them survive despite the inability to communicate and their cultural differences.  Travelling through the countryside, reaching civilization with the Aborigine might be their only chance.

Directed by Nicolas Roeg, Walkabout is considered one of the first films of the Australian “New Wave” cinema.  The movie is loosely based on the James Vance Marshall 1959 novel The Children (retitled Walkabout).  The drama premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #10).

The Australian New Wave happened before I was born, but I remember the next Australia push in the 1980s.  There were tons of films produced (like Crocodile Dundee which also featured David Gulpilil) that kind of showcased Australia and really made it a destination.  It is interesting to go back and see some of the first films out of an entire country that now is firmly established on screen.

walkabout father john meillon

This is not a good picnic

The film plays like a fable or a fairy tale.  The events occurring are largely unexplained:  Who are the kids? Why did their father turn on them? What is the deal with the Aborigine?  It is like Hansel and Gretel or the folk tale of “Babes in the Woods”.  While the boy loves to play up the adventure, the girl tries to remain “civilized”.  You add to that the sexual tension between the Aborigine and the girl and parts involving “invaders” into the wild like the scientists, the hunters, and the village, and you end up with a strange morality tale that is somewhat of a coming-of-age (at the end as an adult, the girl finds herself looking back on her childhood and her time in the outback).

Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg are good as the children through nude scenes of Agutter caused controversy due to the fact that she was only seventeen at the time of the filming.  Luc Roeg is the son of the director and does a surprisingly good job by playing a kid who feels like a real kid.  David Gulpilil is a scene-stealer as the Aborigine who seems as perplexed by the boy and girl as they are with him.

walkabout david gulpilil dance

Watch my dance-o-seduction!

The movie is an odd showcase of Australia by showing different terrains like deserts, plains, and springs while intermixed with close-ups of the creatures which feel like they are closing in on the children.  The film also sparked controversy by the killing of animals like Gulpilil’s kangaroo hunt.

Walkabout is a film that has a lot of meaning, but it is left up to the viewer to determine what that meaning is.  The movie is very slim on answers so it is a movie you can watch multiple times and take away something different each time.  I admire films like this and this one did get me, but I also understand that sometimes things like this can be frustrating to viewers.  I think for something like Walkabout, you have to be up for a challenge…and the movie provides it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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