Tracks review (RFF)

Lucy (April Pearson) and Chris (Chris Willoughby) are at the point in their relationship (and their 30s) where they can either break up or stay together and bed in for the long haul, and a spontaneous trip around Europe is their chosen catalyst to spark such a decision.

Predictably, things don’t go brilliantly, and a series of hijinks force them to consider their relationship from every unflattering angle.

The film is good about finding the universal truths of any long-term relationship, with the couple going from screaming match to lovey-dovey PDA and then back around to bickering with alarming speed. Pearson and Willoughby are great together, and you can feel the familiarity and mild disdain between them.

The trouble is, of course, that no one enjoys watching a nice, ordinary couple implode, and this is where the commitment to realism turns into a hindrance. So mundane are the conversations and arguments that it’s like eavesdropping on your friends having a barney over Sunday lunch and, with the two lead actors credited as co-writers, we may be able to attribute this to a lot of improvisation.

For what must have been an incredibly tight budget, Tracks manages to make France and Italy look divine. It’s smart to occasionally intercut between traditional style and the couple’s own Gopro footage from the trip, and there are moments during the many montages when the camera simply sits and watches the couple as they walk around or into the distance.

The film bills itself as an “antidote to the simpering romanticization of Before Sunrise’, which goes some way to describing the film’s style of comedy. Lucy and Chris are terrible to each other from the start, and completely uninterested in examining their behaviour until it might be too late. Whenever marriage comes up the pair visibly flinch, despite the fact that they’re both aware that it’s make or break time.

Then again, it may be unfair to bring up Before Sunrise – which documents the beginning of a love affair – instead of Before Midnight, which explores a partnership at crisis point.

Tracks is a story about two people clawing themselves out of a rut and realising what they want as individuals. It’s ultimately a hopeful film, drawing comedy from one of the least funny situations human beings can find themselves in.