RELEASE DATE: 22/01/2015
RUN TIME: 1HR 55MIN
That all depends on how you like your stories of inspiring real life people. We’ve already had Angelina Jolie’s 'Unbroken' this year, and ‘Wild’ carries a few similarities. However, while ‘Unbroken’ was a war-time journey of suffering and perseverance, ‘Wild’ is a more personal and introspective tale.
Based on the memoir ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ by Cheryl Strayed (played by Witherspoon), the film follows Strayed’s journey of personal discovery as she treks the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican to Canadian borders along the U.S. Pacific coast. Along her journey we discover her reasons for doing so, primarily her need to again be the woman her mother believed she could be.
Cheryl is in a bad way before making the decision to walk the PCT - she’s pregnant, and doesn’t know to whom; she’s newly divorced, and into hard drugs. Witherspoon deserves her Oscar nomination for this performance. She’s entirely accessible as Cheryl, a woman who’s lost her way. She shows us a complete range of emotions: from fear, joy, anger, to a cathartic release of grief. Laura Dern, as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi, also deserves any award recognition that comes her way. Bobbi, in a way, is more inspiring than Cheryl – Cheryl’s reacting to loss, while Bobbi simply embraces her circumstances and makes the most of them.
The dangers for women travelling alone are pointed out several times. Only once though does Cheryl find herself in a truly threatening situation. Usually, she meets decent people on her trek, but while there are a few supporting characters, Witherspoon carries this film all on her own, helped along here and there by Dern.
Witherspoon deserves her Oscar nomination for this performance.
There isn’t much to say about the editing or direction, which in my opinion is a good thing: neither of these factors are noticeable or intrusive, allowing the characters on screen to simply tell their story. The soundtrack however is well chosen, filled with a mix of classics. There are flashbacks (like just about every film these days), but they’re not jarring, and are placed in such a way to tease out Cheryl’s backstory as she makes progress on the trail. I should make mention here of some of the stunning American scenery. California is spectacular.
A really significant difference between ‘Wild’ and ‘Unbroken’ is that Cheryl is relatable and realistic. She’s no heroine. She’s human, and makes mistakes like the rest of us. Her struggles are those that the average viewer might have faced, or be close to someone who has. Many of us have lost loved ones to cancer. Many of us have struggled with our sense of self. Some might think that a story about some woman walking a hiking trail is nothing special, and a waste of time. While on paper ‘Wild’ may seem corny and kitsch, it isn’t at all, and that’s a credit to not only Cheryl Strayed, but Witherspoon herself. I left the cinema with a real sense of personal possibility, and that’s the whole point of a film like this.