Wild is the screen adaptation of the book “From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” written by Cheryl Strayed. This biographical story explores the huge changes that Strayed made in her life to overcome the huge grief that consumed her. When her mother tragically dies of lung cancer, her life starts to fall to pieces. Compounded by the divorce to her husband, the search for relief drags her deep into a dark path of drugs and cheap relationships. Until one day when shopping for a pregnancy test, she discovers a guide book for the Pacific Crest Trail and decides to take on the 1000 mile hike. The result is a life-changing experience that confronts her inner self by exposing her vulnerabilities in the Wild.
It's fair to say, that at first glance this does look like your typical self-discovery Holywood movie. However, Wild is much more than that. The story holds nothing back in showing the true nature of the journey being taken. At times the brutal harshness of her overwhelming grief is painful. Yet this is exactly what creates a sense of realism, pulling the audience in to feel every paralyzing memory. Inviting you to walk in her footsteps.
For me, the big thing that stands out in this movie is the excellent use of the landscape. Director Jean-Marc Vallée does an incredible job bringing this story to life. It's fair to say, that his creative juices were in full flow after just receiving an Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club. Let's be fair, this is essentially a story about someone going on a long walk. Yet, Vallée captures every emotion in a raw, sometimes extreme way. All blended together with incredible cinematography and an excellent soundscore that compliments the journey wonderfully.
The other big standout comes from Reese Witherspoon. Apparently, Witherspoon had read the book and was so moved by it that she decided to produce the film. But that's not all, she takes the lead role and gives a truly realistically tough performance. In fact, I would say that her performance in Wild is easily a career best. There's no doubt, this would be a challenging role for anyone. But, she is genuinely amazing. Laura Dern is also wonderful, cast as Cheryl's Mother. Giving some tear-jerking moments in beautifully arranged scenes that portray Cheryl's constant search for the happier times of her life with her Mum.
Why does this work, put simply, it is a great piece of storytelling. Pieced together in a way that involves the audience in a personal way. Many of the issues that Cheryl is confronting or trying to escape, we will all have to confront at some points in our own journey. It is the truthfulness, that is inspiring not just a simple tale of achievement.
All in all, Wild is one of those films that will push and pull you in all the right ways. A truthful and honest journey that will reflect back to the viewer in extremely powerful ways. On top of that, Wild may just motivate you to get up and go on your own adventure one day too.