On the surface Wild seems like it would be incredibly pretentious but in fact the film is far from it.
Following the real life story of Cheryl Strayed the plot has plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience hooked throughout, desperate to know more about her seemingly dramatic life.
Based on the book written by Strayed Reese Witherspoon portrays the young woman who has had so many troubles in life that she decides to throw in the towel and walk the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1,000 mile trek across America, in the hope of finding herself.
The opening scene is not for the faint hearted as Strayed perches on a rock overlooking the picturesque scenery of the surrounding desert, carefully peeling off her hiking boots and socks to reveal a bloody toenail that she pulls off in grotesque fashion.
The story line follows Cheryl as she undertakes the trek, depicting her highs and lows as she struggles to feed herself and deal with the conditions around her. Through flashback we discover what has made Cheryl the woman she is today as we delve into her childhood, adolescence and adult life as she struggles with life, death, marriage, drug abuse and sex.
As the film continues Cheryl goes from a broken woman to someone strong and she is certainly a fascinating character to watch come to life on the screen.
The cinematography is indescribable, Witherspoon putting herself through much hardship as we see her crossing fast flowing rivers and hiking through deep snow to get to the end of Cheryl’s long journey and cleanse her mind of the past, gracefully climbing mountains and rocks in her path.
The acting is superb and Witherspoon really carries the film as Cheryl does her immense backpack across the desert. The metaphors are abundant; at one stop point a campsite owner helps Cheryl to de-clutter her backpack of all the things she no longer needs to use, almost like he is helping her to cleanse herself and her mind of the horrors she faced in her past to make her a stronger person.
Laura Dern is also fantastic as Bobbi, Cheryl’s mother, who raises her two children alone after leaving her alcoholic abusive husband. There are plenty of touching scenes between the two women and it comes as no surprise that they are both nominated for Oscar’s for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) January 15, 2015
It is a tiring journey that Cheryl faces and by the end of the film she, and the audience, are pretty exhausted, though triumphant. The film is also interesting in its subversion of some typical stereotypes. Only a few days into her journey Cheryl runs out of food and asks the help of a nearby man working in a field. Some great scenes follow in which we instantly assume the lone man to be rather sinister, worrying for Cheryl’s safety, but we are proved utterly wrong.
As the climax of the film approaches Cheryl has prevailed and done the thing that many said she never could, or should, do. She is one of the only women to complete the trail, men giving up around her.
The actual ending of Wild was a little abrupt with Witherspoon’s voiceover stating only briefly what happens in Strayed’s life from that moment until the end of her book and I for one was left wanting more.
It does seem a shame that director Jean-Marc Vallée, the director of Dallas Buyer’s Club, has not been nominated for any awards but Nick Hornby could win some for his screenplay, definitely deserving with some of the great dialogue produced throughout.
Wild is an incredibly emotional film, both disturbing and deeply moving. Witherspoon truly outdoes herself throughout the piece, depicting the anger and destruction as well as the vulnerability within Strayed, making it both a great character film and a stand-alone piece of cinema.