Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern
Plot: The true story of Cheryl Strayed, who hiked 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada, in an effort to heal from a recent tragedy.
Review: Wild is somewhat a mixture of Emil Hirsch's Into The Wild and Mia Wasikowska's Tracks, combining the scope of the latter and the introspective story of the former, minus the tragic ending.
Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who life has descended into chaos after her beloved mother's death. She spirals into a bout of sexual promiscuity and drugs, causing her to split from her husband. In an effort to rediscover herself, she decides to hike 1100 miles on the Pacific Crest trail all alone, and on this journey, we see her overcome the many physical obstacles in her path while pondering her dark past.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee presents Cheryl's journey from start to finish and inserts several moments of her past life in between, which include her happy and sad moments with her late mother, her drug abuse, her sexual encounters with many men as well as her childhood spent in the presence of her drunk and abusive father. While all these past recollections define her character, I found the physical journey on the trail to be equally enthralling. Vallee wisely focuses on little details like Cheryl struggling to pick up her backpack (which you will notice looks way heavier than she is) on the first day, or her frustration from not being able to cook her own food, or her boots injuring her feet badly...all this in between seeing her walk for miles and meeting people. Many of the people she comes across are nice and kind hikers, save for one particularly creepy dude, as well as non-hikers who assist her along the way.
As far as technical aspects go, Vallee scores full points. The cinematography is excellent and the music choices are all spot on. Personally I've not heard any of these songs before, but they fit the film like a glove and actually enhances the experience.
Witherspoon puts in a strong performance as Cheryl, showing the woman's dark side as well as her nicer demeanour, making her likable despite being flawed. It's easy to root for her as we see her take on a herculean task in an effort to regain control of her life. For that Witherspoon deserves all the credit she got. Laura Dern is solid as well in the role of Cheryl's mother, and while she doesn't get a lot of screen time, manages to shine in each of her moments as someone who has so much zest for life and love despite being a victim of abuse and the illness that eventually takes her life.
Wild does suffer though from the non-linear jumps to the past, which does well to establish Cheryl's life prior to the walk, but jarring at times when it didn't feel necessary. In this case, less would be more. The ending was also a bit abrupt, but it's not a big deal.
All in all, Wild is another solid journey story which is made all the better by Witherspoon and Dern's performances. It's worth a look. (7/10)