Reese Witherspoon could not have chosen a better storyline to make a come back in. Wild strips her of all the glamour and feminism that she had back in her Legally Blonde days.
In this role, she didn’t need tons of make up or clothes, she needed a backpack, hiking boots and her determination.
She 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.
Using heroine, sex and rebellion to mask her pain, Cheryl embarks on a self-destructive path that soon sees her long-suffering husband Paul, played by 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 that 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 in her rucksack, Strayed begins to think she is in way over her head.
As the days and weeks go by, she is challenged by her camping inexperience, desert wildlife and trusting strangers in times of need.
The entire journey is dotted with short flashbacks and dreams of Cheryl’s teenage life, the fiery relationship with her mother and her not-so-sophisticated sex life. Almost all of them are triggered by Strayed’s singing or poetry readings which she writes in notebooks at several milestones on 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 in the wilderness grows, Strayed begins to lean less on her ex-husband and memories of her past. As she meets new backpackers, overcomes pain and reaches her half way mark, she starts to mentally let herself go on a journey of self discovery and forgiveness.
Reese’s narration throughout the entirety of the film is endearing, comedic and emotional all at once, it adds to the likeability of her character and the hardships of hiking alone as a young woman. Strayed’s fears of rape and attack only help to keep her story realistic whilst her determination and strength make for inspirational viewing.
Alongside this, the film does not hold back when it comes to showing the events of Strayed’s past, some scenes are graphic with repeated emphasis on nudity, sex and drug paraphernalia. Although unexpected, these scenes do slot together with the rest of the journey to become a vital part of the spiritual energy in the storyline.
Overall, I was not expecting Witherspoon to actually be convincing in this role, I am just too used to seeing her in sophisticated rom-com movies. However she completely and utterly surprised me, she played Strayed beautifully and I didn’t question her performance once.
She captured 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 loved it and I’m couldn’t be happier that it’s based on a true story. I came out of the cinema yesterday feeling motivated and inspired as a young woman wanting to travel. I think this could definitely be a hit amongst feminists as it lightly touches upon the stereotypical limits of female and male hikers.
Of course, the scenery within the film is nothing short of spectacular and only left me wanting to hike that exact trail.
I enjoyed the fact that the spiritual element of this story had the beauty of the environment mixed in with it. More than anything, I can relate to the basic idea of self discovery through exposure to nature.
I would recommend going to see this film if you have ever wanted to travel or enjoy outdoor activities. It’s also a great one to watch if you want a new spiritual outlook on life, definitely something for the hippies (like me) out there to relate to!
Wild – 10/10.
Released: 16th January 2015.
In cinemas now.
Watch the trailer here.