Director Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971) straddles multiple borders: both the space separating urban Australia and the outback, and the perilous line between adolescence and adulthood. Loosely adapted by British playwright Edward Bond from a James Vance Marshall novel, the film tells the story of two white, city-raised Australian children—a teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother (Lucien John)—who are abandoned in the outback, and the Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who befriends them while on his rite-of-passage journey known as a “walkabout.”
Roeg had already honed his craft as a cinematographer for esteemed filmmakers such as Francois Truffaut and Richard Lester, but his first solo outing as a director announced him as an artist with a bold and unique vision. Often described as a visual stylist, Roeg employed elliptical editing, fracturing space and time to create emotional and textural associations rather than simply to advance a linear narrative. While his subsequent masterpieces Don't Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) challenged conventional film grammar even more aggressively, Walkabout marks the birth of his intoxicating and sometimes disorienting aesthetic, while also telling a harrowing coming-of-age tale. Both a thrilling adventure and a meditation on the perils of cross-cultural communication, Walkabout also just happens to be one of the most beautifully photographed movies of its era.