Wild (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, and starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadowski, Michiel Huisman, W. Earl Brown, Gaby Hoffman, Kevin Rankin, and Brian Van Holt.
When the film opens up, we see Cheryl Strayed (Resse Witherspoon), who is covered in bruises, painfully sitting down and getting off her feet. As she sits in the rocks, she takes her boots off and sees how heavily bruised her feet are. As she tries to tend to her bloody toenails, she loses her boots down the slope. Once that happens, she screams in frustration as we see glimpses of her life that has led up to this moment.
It is moments like these that make the film enjoyable, as we see Cheryl go on this life-threatening trek across Midwest America along the Pacific Crest Trail. As we see the beautiful shots of the scenery (the Mojave Desert, Oregon’s Crater Lake, etc. captured by Yves Belanger), we also hear Cheryl’s inner thoughts through her on-the-trail monologues. It’s easy to relate to what she is thinking and feeling, as she is one of the few women to be on this hike. On the start of her journey, she starts reaffirming to herself that she has made the right choice despite knowing that she can quit at anytime. The constant bickering on her journey makes the film quite pleasing. We also get notified of the days passing by as Cheryl continues hiking and putting memorable quotes from her favorite writers in every notebook she finds at some of the trail’s pit stops.
Reese Witherspoon makes an unforgettable performance as Cheryl Strayed, a determined woman who faces the odds as she hikes more than 1,000 miles in the Pacific Crest Trail after making a mess in her life. Witherspoon has also shown faith in producing the film from the pages of Cheryl’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail onto the big screen. By undertaking such a demanding role testing her physically and mentally, Witherspoon has a sure shot at being nominated during awards season.
Directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallee, Wild is about one woman’s journey of self-discovery from the Mojave Desert to the border of Washington State. As in the book, the film also utilizes flashbacks from Cheryl’s life before going on her 1,000-mile trip. Strayed has been through a lot of turmoil in her life, including the loss of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) from cancer and the ugly divorce from her ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadowski). On top of that, she displayed some destructive behavior since her mother’s death during her marriage by being a heavy drug user and having sex with random men. Seeking some redemption and soul-searching, Cheryl goes on this journey in the Pacific Crest Trail without any hiking experience.
Almost every scene that Reese Witherspoon is in shows us a different side to her, which is refreshing to watch as we navigate through Cheryl’s life before and during her more than three-month trip. The film takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride as we see Cheryl’s ups and downs during her hike and during her life’s journey so far. It’s also good to see the good and wacky characters Cheryl meets along the way. She meets some loving people, like the heartwarming farming couple who were nice enough to feed and bathe her. There were some memorable characters like the journalist for the Hobo Times, who made the journey interesting as he interviewed Cheryl on the new lifestyle she is leading after mistaking her as a hippie who just so happens to be hitchhiking on the road. Down the road, Cheryl even found love with a music promoter named Jonathan (Michiel Huisman) despite it being a one-night stand before heading back on the trail.
Nick Hornby has done a wonderful job of adapting Cheryl’s memoir onto the screen with his screenplay after the success of About a Boy and An Education. Hornby makes Cheryl’s personal journey accessible to the audience.
Overall, Wild becomes a touching journey full of pain and heartbreak but is one of redemption as well. The Pacific Crest gives Cheryl’s soul the treatment that it needs. Wild is an emotionally driven story that relies on not just survival but the message of discovering and forgiving oneself.
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