Walkabout (1971) - Rotten Tomatoes

Walkabout (1971)

Walkabout (1971)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg made an auspicious solo directing debut with the Australian production Walkabout. Jenny Agutter and Lucien John play a sister and brother who are stranded in the Australian outback after the suicide of their father. With the help of aborigine David Gulpilil, Agutter and John learn how to survive out of doors. Agutter's gratitude is misinterpreted as love by the aborigine; when she rebuffs him, he kills himself. Though alone again, Agutter and her brother use the skills taught them by Gulpilil to find their way back to civilization--where Agutter chooses to remember only the nicer elements of her odyssey. Walkabout combines its tale of survival with some potent commentary on the racial barriers of Australia, barriers that simply don't go away just because of random acts of kindness.more
Rating: R
Genre: Classics, Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By: Edward Bond
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 21, 1998
20th Century Fox


David Gulpilil
as Aborigine
David Gumpilil
as Aborigine
Peter Carver
as No Hoper
Luc Roeg
as Brother
Barry Donnelly
as Australian Scientist
Noelene Brown
as German Scientist
Carlo Manchini
as Italian Scientist
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Walkabout

Critic Reviews for Walkabout

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (7)

Roeg intercuts images of modern life with the lushness of nature -- offering a stunning fable about the importance of respecting the earth.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Is it a parable about noble savages and the crushed spirits of city dwellers? That's what the film's surface seems to suggest, but I think it's also about something deeper and more elusive: The mystery of communication.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

For the most part, Walkabout is an involving, occasionally hypnotic, motion picture.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Beautifully done, I think, with a completely appropriate and consistent style.

Full Review… | November 9, 2014
Daily Telegraph

[VIDEO] "Walkabout" is a poetic film that incorporates a collective subconscious of humanist values.

Full Review… | March 14, 2011

A unique survival film, that has become a cult favorite.

Full Review… | June 1, 2010
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Walkabout


Strong, magical and beautiful, Nicolas Roeg's friendly tale show a great meeting between urban life and natural world.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

A beautifully photographed film with the backdrop of the Australian outback.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


Director Nicolas Roeg's (`Don't Look Now') cinematographic skills and admiration pay especial tribute to Walkabout's powerful combination of Australia's awesome scenic diversity and the sensual Jenny Agutter, and the whole effect is embellished by John Barry's sublimely magical score. I would hasten to add that as well as being very pleasing to watch, enhanced by Roeg's voyeuristic use of the camera, Agutter provides a skilful performance as a prejudiced unworldly teenager, who is naively unaware of the sexuality she exudes whether naked or wearing her high cut school skirt. Although it was a somewhat amusing shock to recently discover that a body double was employed for Agutter in the shower scenes for `An American Werewolf in London', no such deceit was used in this film. Immediately after filming `Walkabout', Agutter reprised her BBC serialisation role of two years earlier as Bobbie for Lionel Jeffries' sumptuous version of Edith Nesbit's `The Railway Children', ensuring her immortalization as an iconographic beauty. She graduated thirty years on into the role of the mother for a Carlton TV production and is currently involved in producing a film script about the life of the author.

On a deadly picnic into the desert a father (John Meillon; `Crocodile Dundee') inexplicably snaps, shooting at his two children before torching his car and turning the gun on himself. Now the children, absurdly kitted out in their formal school uniforms, are lost and carelessly lose their provisions, except for the transistor radio with its inane babble being another illustration of how hopeless our technology is against nature. Fortuitously they stumble upon an oasis and find their only saviour in the form of an Aborigine (David Gulpilil; `Rabbit Proof Fence') on a rites-of-passage walkabout. The seven year old boy (Lucien John, the director's son) happily has a child's ability to communicate with the Aborigine despite the language barrier, something his older sister never grasps, deftly demonstrated on their first encounter when she is increasingly frustrated by the lack of comprehension of her demands for water. Roeg crosscuts stunning kaleidoscopic images of the physical landscape and its critters, with the killing of animals and the domestic butchering of joints of meat to give a stark contrast between nature and civilisation. However, given this was his first solo effort, his overworked montages can be a little irritating and confusing, and show off the cinematographer rather than the director in Roeg.

The director emphasises the unrealised sexual tension by explicitly marrying shots of both the teenagers with suggestive trees in the form of intertwined human limbs, as well as providing us with a diverting interlude involving a group of meteorologists. The deeply sad misunderstanding of the two cultures gives poignancy to the film that is its strength, especially delineated by the Aborigine's tribal courtship dance for Agutter, which only serves to terrify her and increase her distrust. Her lack of emotion for their former helpmate is staggering. When faced with a dangling corpse the girl asks trivial questions of her brother about his breakfast whilst pointlessly picking ants off the body. The tragic outcome is also indicative of the current state of Aboriginal life expectancy with a higher proportion dying through accident, assault and self-harm than any other Australian demographic group.

The failure of her parents to prepare her for the change from childhood may have contributed to the tragedy, and it is only on reflection years later, living the same life as her parents and similarly caged in an apartment block, that Agutter's character senses that maybe she missed her chance. It is interesting to note that the children are deliberately English to highlight the cultural clash between the European settlers and the original inhabitants of this ancient land, and I wonder if similarly white Australians would have had any more understanding of the indigenous customs of the Aborigine boy. `Walkabout' is a far more visual depiction of sexual awakening colliding with alien cultures than that other famous picnic that goes horribly wrong in Peter Weir's `Picnic at Hanging Rock' (which this predates by four years), with its metaphorically implied unease centred on a sacred Aboriginal site that eventually destroys the established order of a Ladies College.

`Walkabout' is as relevant today as when it was released in the era of '70's industrialisation with the Kakadu National Park once again under threat from a new uranium mine on its boundary. The Northern Territory's tribe Mirrar is currently involved in this dispute over land rights and excavations, although mining was temporarily ceased on Aboriginal land in the mid 1990's. This is a sensitive issue as Australia's economy relies on the export of uranium in the production of nuclear power, and Aborigines oppose the exploitation of the Earth's resources for profit. The company at the centre of this discord also operates the Ranger mine which is depicted along with the rock band Midnight Oil (well known for their campaigning land rights missive `Beds Are Burning') in eX de Medici's `Nothing's As Precious As A Hole In The Ground', a recent acquisition by Australia's National Portrait Gallery.

Despite last year's rush by some of Hollywood's well-known directors returning home to make Aboriginal films, including Phillip Noyce's `Rabbit Proof Fence' (released 21 February) about the 'Stolen Generation', and `Yolngu Boy' which did well at a film festival in Colorado, I sadly suspect very few of us in the UK are likely to see them. Apparently there has not been a commercial success for a black-themed movie since 1955's `Jedda', the first Australian feature to star Aboriginal actors. If the hope of a '70's New Wave style revival is to be realised for Australian cinema, surely it is time for the industry worldwide to wake up to the fact that a wealth of film exists outside of Hollywood, and that the viewing public may actually welcome some variety.

With the release of the director's full cut in 1998 both the DVD and the video are unusually available for the UK as well as the US from Amazon.

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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