Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffman
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Running Time: 115 mins
Wild is an American film about the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who decided to walk over a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail after a series of tragedies and complications in her life, leading her to an epic journey of self-discovery.
This is one of the most emotionally powerful films I’ve ever seen. It’s a very realistic approach to adapting this true story, with such honest focus on the very mind of the main character, played brilliantly by Reese Witherspoon, whilst it’s also a simply fascinating and engrossing story, full of a whole heap of different emotions that really make it wholly captivating to watch.
I’ll start with the central powerhouse of this film that is Reese Witherspoon’s performance. She portrays Cheryl Strayed in a dazzling and unique way, showing so clearly that this woman is not a generically determined, strong independent woman, but a hugely flawed, scared and confused person, and that is probably the most important reason that this whole film works, because you can so easily relate to Strayed, due to Witherspoon’s very human and convincing performance, that the emotional turmoil that she experiences for her whole journey really matters to you.
One of the other things that was so interesting about this film is how the whole character of Cheryl Strayed, her backstory and whole reason for being out in the wild is presented. Accordingly, it stays pretty close to the layout of the book, whereby it’s not presented in a chronological order, rather it’s a series of flashbacks in a random order introduced at certain points during the her walk, chosen according to when she remembers them, and that not only makes her a more intriguing and enigmatic character, as you only get to find out new things about her gradually, but also increases the sense of realism and importance of her memories and the walk as a whole.
This film is also staggering because of the amazing breadth of emotions that it manages to cover. The main feeling is pretty heavy, talking about the impact of loss and the emotional trauma of tragedy, however there is still a very strong inspirational feeling to this film, being a moving tale of self-discovery as much as an emotional tale of desperation.
As well as those two main ideas, this film is also at times very funny. It’s so honest about the very human qualities of Cheryl Strayed, and that really allows for some good laughs as she tries to find herself and a way away from the tragedies she has suffered, which was instrumental in making this a properly entertaining film, not overly heavy-going like Jean-Marc Vallée’s last film, Dallas Buyers Club.
Finally, the fourth atmosphere that this film manages to also successfully bring across is one of real tension and constant fear. As Witherspoon shows in Strayed, she’s a very scared woman, not just of her future and her past, but also the wild and what lies within, and there are some very unsettling scenes throughout this film where you really fear for the main character, which is thrilling, but also horrifying at the same time.
Overall, this gets an 8.8, because it’s not only such a powerfully moving emotional drama, but Reese Witherspoon’s stunning performance and the film’s realism, honesty and ability to cover such a wide emotional range really make it a one-of-a-kind watch.