There is a moment in Tracks where the gentle sparring between the central couple Lucy (April Pearson) and Chris (Chris Willoughby) takes a turn from the good-humoured to the genuinely barbed: in retaliation to one of Lucy’s sarcastic insults, Chris calls her a “moon-cup bitch”. Lucy, momentarily taken aback, stares at him for a second before grabbing her bags and storming off into the night.
If anything, it sums up the central narrative of the film: a couple in their early thirties, no longer sure of their relationship in such a way that a little remark does not have the playfulness or teasing it perhaps once did. Their decision to undertake an inter-railing trip around Europe is a “make or break” for their relationship, while also making the most of visa-free travel before Brexit makes an appearance.
But while the idyllic scenery provides them a place to explore, the cracks in their relationship becomes more pronounced — Chris constantly makes bad jokes and almost refuses to take anything seriously, while Lucy seemingly puts up with him simply because she has gotten used to him. When Chris oversteps the boundaries of their relationship however, Lucy takes off into the night and he is left chasing her around the streets of various Italian cities in an attempt to win her back when he realises just how much she means to him.
Pearson and Willoughby, both of whom wrote the script alongside Finn Bruce and the director James Patterson, perfectly capture the dynamics of a couple who have been together for a long time — taking the mick out of each other, the weariness of knowing exactly what joke your partner is going to make before it comes out of their mouth, the worn edges around the relationship that only become more obvious in this new setting. Chris, slightly brash, more than a bit over-confident and full of terrible jokes, takes on the more antagonistic role and it is perhaps due to Willoughby’s acting that it makes it somewhat difficult to root for him as he wallows in his own misery once Lucy takes off.
Unfortunately, Tracks does end up falling into the trap of the “Brits Abroad” trope that feels like something ripped straight from an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo — a ‘sexy’ French receptionist who propositions Lucy for some “boom boom” by repeating the phrase over and over again like a perverted automated toy, is perhaps the low point. That combined with Chris’ many attempts at “speaking French” which simply involves a very dodgy accent and gurning, does pull the film down as the more low-key elements of comedy that run throughout the rest of it are very well observed.
Perhaps Tracks might feel dated in a few years — the idea of being able to travel so easily post-Brexit is still up in the air, along with the rest of the Brexit plans, and while Chris and Lucy’s relationship is far from perfect, Tracks manages to draw out your sympathies for them; perhaps against any better judgement. It isn’t going to change the world, but as a low-budget British comedy it serves its purpose.
Tracks is available on Digital from August 18th
by Rose Dymock