Review: ‘Wild’ journeys to more than one destination Special

Posted Dec 5, 2014 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Wild’ is another tour de force starring Reese Witherspoon in which she puts aside her good girl guise to portray a woman determined to face her life’s mistakes on a 1,000 mile hike alone.
Reese Witherspoon stars in  Wild
Reese Witherspoon stars in 'Wild'
Fox Searchlight
Sometimes when things in life are not going well, the easiest thing seems to be to just pick up and leave everything behind. Not necessarily permanently, but even a temporary escape feels like it would be a huge relief either until the negative energies blow over or you’re able to find yourself again. For some, it may appear to be the only way to deal with whatever issues are plaguing them. In Wild, Cheryl goes on a 1,000 mile hike to confront and deal with the despair that has taken over her life.
Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) has had her finger on her life’s self-destruct button for too long. She’s damaged most of her relationships and put her own body through the wringer after her mother’s (Laura Dern) via drugs and promiscuity. Though she lacks the hard-core experience of her soon-to-be peers, she decides to go on a three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way she confronts the demons of her past by revisiting her best and worst memories, hoping she emerges at the end an improved version of herself. But there are a lot of obstacles between Cheryl and her goal, both emotional and physical, that she must first overcome.
Last year’s female soul-searching trek was featured in Tracks, which centred on a young woman crossing the Australian desert with just her dog and a group of camels. But her quest was much less riddled with angst. Wild focuses less on the physical crossing and more on the personal journey Cheryl must complete for her own sanity. Rather than watch her traverse the route for two hours, the film traces how she got to this point in her life via non-chronological flashbacks. At the beginning the connections seem unclear or non-existent, but as the movie continues it all starts to make sense.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée has a knack for demanding dramas and Cheryl’s story is somewhat of a tragic one. Skillfully interchanging the present with the past, he stitches together a patchwork of remembrances from her childhood to her marriage to her downfall before finally moving to a more ordered display of her past. Most images from the trail capture a significant event or new encounters with fellow travellers rather than just the endless walking of a woman on a mission. The screenplay is based on the memoir of the real-life Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the screen by author Nick Hornby.
Less shiny than she’s been previously, Witherspoon lets the character muddy her typical girl-next-door persona. She is surprisingly convincing as a young woman who’s wandered into the darkest corners of her personality and become lost in the blackness. But she’s equally believable as someone who is trying claw her way back into the light. On the other hand, apparently little acting was needed when Cheryl feebly attempts to assemble her tent for the first time as Vallée simply let the camera roll on a similarly inexperienced Witherspoon.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski