Movie Review – Wild (2015)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae

Based on a true story, Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) is a woman who decides to go on a three month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to try and get over a recent catastrophe of her life. As she walks she realizes that she’s woefully underprepared, but finds solace in her anguish and battles the elements and her own self-doubt to hike the thousand miles. Along the way she encounters a variety of people, while she remains haunted by the recent events of her life.

Whenever I see a film about someone going on a hike or a pilgrimage I’m always filled with an urge to do a similar thing, even though I’d be likely to die. Wild switches between timeframes effortlessly, transitioning from a bleak moment in the hike to a bleak moment in her past. As the film unfolds so does Cheryl’s story, and it carefully peels away the layers to show how raw and emotional her anguish really is. It’s shown physically as well, as the film doesn’t shy away from showing the marks that the hike leaves her with, or the bloodied toes.

Witherspoon is amazing in this film and carries it well. I’ve seen a lot of her performances and I think this is probably the best of her career so far. There are some harrowing moments in the story but these are broken up by moments of humour, and Witherspoon moulds her acting to the tone of the scene perfectly, whether she’s frightened or angry, and the few moments of joy she expresses feel rare, and I found myself cherishing them too.

The rest of the acting was good, although I did find it odd that Dern and Witherspoon played mother and daughter when there aren’t many years between them, so that took me out of the story a little bit. Most of the other characters pop up now and then through the film, so it’s hard to form an attachment to anyone apart from Cheryl, since this is really about her journey and it doesn’t seem too concerned with giving attention to the other people in her life, which is fine when all is said and done, although in the hands of a lesser actress the film could have suffered for it.

The soundtrack is amazing with the music perfectly complementing the images on the screen, and as she hikes the film travels through a lot of different types of scenery. The landscapes appear crisp and the world that is presented to us feels alive.

Wild is a film that as the credits begin to roll I had to sit for a few moments and let the film wash over me. I do have a fondness for stories where people go on a hike to get over some personal tragedy, and this one is excellent. I found myself immersed and enthralled, and it felt like it went on a lot longer than it did without feeling as though it was dragged out. I definitely recommend it.

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