Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffman, Keene McRae
There's something to be said about spending time alone. Finding out who you are is easiest when all you have to lean on is yourself. There's power in searching and power in discovering. All of these sum up the journey of Wild, Jean-Marc Vallee's beautiful adaptation of the true story of Cheryl Strayad's travels up the Pacific Crest Trail. Lifted by Reese Witherspoon's Oscar-worthy portrayal of Strayad, Wild is the type of movie that leaves you looking at your own journey, the good and the bad, in the most introspective of ways.
Strayad is a tough woman. She's harshly independent, even when she's at her most vulnerable. She is honest with those around her, almost to a fault. When her life begins to crumble, her independent attitude gets in the way of any realm of compassion that may be hiding inside. The journey of Wild isn't entirely about her travels up the PCT. Each tough mile or milestone she reaches, a memory of one of life's moments, good and bad, surfaces. She's forced to face the demons living inside of her. It's difficult, especially when the present circumstances put a halt to her adventures. She bought the wrong fuel for the portable stove, leaving her to eat cold mush for days. She bought the wrong shoes, leaving her toenails to rip and tear and countless callouses to form along her feet. Her backpack is so large, fellow hikers refer to it as "Monster." It's when she starts letting things go mentally that her physical journey begins to ease.
It's in the flashbacks that the true story of Wild takes place. Vallee's easiness between the present and past is what truly propels the story and showcases Strayad's strength in a remarkable way. This is a woman who has been through the ringer, albeit by her own doing, and has to make a decision. Is she going to continue to throw her life away to the dogs, or is she going to let her past serve as stepping stones to the future? There are undercurrents of pain through every single step she takes. It's hard to feel completely bad for her when we see that it's her fault her marriage is broken and that her life is in the shape it's in. But, the liberty in marching on is what is empowering.
Playing Strayad, Witherspoon gives her deepest performance to date. She's at her most vulnerable. Some of the magic comes in the scenes where she's not even saying any dialogue. It's the temperament of her face and the pain in her eyes that sells the story. As her mother, Laura Dern gives off every bit of the energy of a loving mother. She's free-spirited and cooky, in the best ways possible. Even as she suffers a devastating blow, her unconditional love for everything never ceases.
Shot beautifully and featuring an intrinsically beautiful score, Wild never falters. It's a great story of human strength and emotion. It's one of the few times I've experienced an audience sit in silence for the first few moments of the end credits, just taking it in, before breaking out into applause.
Runtime: 115 minutes