Cinéaste 004: Wild


"Honestly? I'm lonelier in my real life than I am out here." 
Title: Wild 
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée 
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski
Synopsis: A woman with a tragic past decides to start her new life by hiking for one thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Look, I have to be honest: films that follow one white woman's journey to discovering who she is are not really my thing (read: Eat, Pray, Love). As such, I fully expected to not exactly love Wild. And yes, it does follow a similar pattern of self-reflection, but I have to say I didn't hate this film. Reese Witherspoon is truly fantastic in her role as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who is struggling to overcome addiction and a recent tragedy in her life, and the cinematography is absolutely stunning.

Much of the film is set on the Pacific Crest Trail, a pathway through some of the most outstanding scenic terrain in the United States. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. As you can imagine, this makes for some pretty incredible scenery as we follow Cheryl's journey of self-discovery.

Amongst the setting of the PCT, glimpses of Cheryl's life that led her to this point are shown through quite clever editing. We see lovely moments with her mother (Laura Dern) juxtaposed with scenes of drug abuse and degradation. It's not pretty, but it doesn't feel gratuitous either. Either way, Witherspoon convincingly plays these roles with ease: a drug addict, model student, and determined hiker.


However, there were small things that irritated me during this film. Witherspoon looks as glamorous as ever while hiking through the desert, with little dirt on her clothes and not a tan in sight despite the many weeks spent under the scorching sun. I also felt that the reasons behind her deciding to go on the hike were never truly clear - there was no crystallising event that made her determined to turn her life around, and it was never really made clear what she wanted to achieve by undertaking the hike.

Wild has drawn many comparisons to similarly-titled Into The Wild, which (despite receiving huge praise on its release) I found pretty awful. Both are true stories based on a lone character's journey, running away and seeking an atonement for themselves. I'm sure many will disagree, but I actually found Wild to be a more enjoyable film in this regard than Into The Wild - but this may be because I found the protagonist in Into The Wild absolutely insufferable to watch.

Overall the film is a slow burn, and is definitely worth a watch for Witherspoon's performance alone.
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