Film review: Wild (2014)

Wild Film Review (2014)

Reese Witherspoon could not have chosen a better storyline to make a come back in. Reese plays the troubled character of Cheryl Strayed, a traumatised yet strong minded woman from Minneapolis who falls off the rails in the wake of her mother’s premature death.

Jean-Marc VallĂ©e’s adaption strips her of the glamour that she’s known for in Legally Blonde. She doesn’t need tons of make up or clothes to play Cheryl because her story is one of backpacks, hiking boots and determination.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl is first introduced to the audience as a stubborn and serious young woman with an attitude problem. The storyline quickly darkens to reveal her mother’s sudden cancer diagnosis and the fall of Cheryl’s world. Using heroine, sex and rebellion to mask her pain, she embarks on a self-destructive path that sees her long-suffering husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) divorce her.

In the mist of a pregnancy drama, Strayed is taken in by a book on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a long-distance hiking trail which spans the Western ridge of America from the Mexican to Canadian border.

Realising the unrecognisable, damaged person she has become, she decides she is not yet ready for motherhood but wants to take on the PCT in order to deal with her life crisis.

Without much warning, the storyline jumps straight into her journey. Unsure of herself, sweltering in the desert sun and carrying double her own body weight, Strayed fears she is in way over her head. As she pushes on, her camping inexperience and run ins with desert wildlife prove to be a frightening wake up call.

Her journey is dotted with short flashbacks of the fiery relationship with her mother and her not-so-sophisticated sex life. Almost all of them are triggered by singing or poetry readings which Cheryl writes in notebooks at milestones along the trail. To the audience, each snippet serves as a clue to exactly how she has got to where she is in her life and why.

As her confidence grows, Strayed begins to lean less on her ex-husband and memories of her past. She starts to mentally let herself go on a journey of acceptance and forgiveness.

Reese’s narration throughout the film is endearing, comedic and emotional. It adds to the likeability of her character and the hardships of hiking alone as a young woman. Her fears as a solo female hiker keep the story realistic whilst her determination makes for inspirational viewing.

Wild does not hold back on Strayed’s past. Some scenes are graphic with emphasis on nudity, sex and drugs. Although unexpected, these scenes do slot together with the rest of the journey to become a vital part of the energy in the storyline.

Final thoughts on Wild (2014)

Overall I was not expecting Witherspoon to actually be convincing in this role. I usually see her in sophisticated rom-com movies however she did surprise me with Wild. She plays Strayed beautifully and I didn’t question her performance once.

She captures every emotion with grace and passion whilst somehow still managing to look naturally gorgeous, even as a battered and bruised backpacker.

As for the storyline, I love it and I couldn’t be happier that it’s based on a true story. After watching it for the first time, I felt motivated and inspired as a young woman wanting to travel solo. I also think this could be a hit amongst feminists as it cleverly touches on the stereotypes of female and male hikers.

The scenery within the film is nothing short of spectacular and only left me wanting to hike that exact trail. I enjoyed that this story had the beauty of the environment mixed into it. More than anything, I can relate to the basic idea of self-discovery through exposure to nature.

Wild – 10/10.
Released: 16th January 2015.

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