The act of finding oneself is something men and women have been doing since the beginning of time. There have been many ways people have tried it, but walking 1100 miles now might be at the top of the list. That is exactly what Cheryl Strayed did in 1995, after the death of her mother. Along the way she kept a journal, which would later become a book, and like all good stories, it made its way onto the big screen, under the name “Wild”.
Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) had a pretty normal life up until her mother (Laura Dern) got sick and died suddenly. After her death Cheryl looked to recreate the happiness that her mother gave her and turned to drugs and sex with any guy that asked her, even though she was married. Lost and out of control, Cheryl decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, alone, in order to see if she can become the woman her mother thought she could be. As she begins, she struggles, but finds her groove along the way, as well as making some new friends, as she gets labeled the “Queen of The PCT”. The hike that started in the Mojave Desert and ended at the Organ-Washington boarder took Strayed nearly one hundred days. Along the way she finds who she is and who she was always meant to be.
When you think of movies that have walking in it, the first thing you think about is those “Hobbit” movies. While this film has a lot of walking, and just as much beautiful scenery, what it lacks is a large cast and dwarfs. What you do have is a woman in Strayed, who did something that not many people can do period. Played perfectly by Witherspoon, who gives one of her best performances of her career, and might have earned herself another chance at an Oscar. Her performance is so much about expressions rather than dialogue, since most of the film she is alone. The book, from which the film is adapted, was written by Cheryl Strayed, and then written for the screen by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) who does a fine job of keeping the essence of the book. Fresh off “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallee does a great job, using natural light to display the beauty of the PCT. While Witherspoon and the source material do make for a good film, that is not to say there isn’t any flaws, in this films case the flashback scenes sometimes get more in the way than they do add to the forward momentum of the story. Like Vallee’s last film, we see the lows and the highs a person can go though in their life. The other thing those two films have in common is the difficulty to watch, not because they are bad films, but because of the subject matter, and the honesty Vallee shows. “Wild” is a very good movie, and while you might not want to watch it multiple times, you really only need one viewing to appreciate the work both the filmmakers and Cheryl Strayed accomplished.