Going in blindly, a film titled ‘Wild’ and starring Reese Witherspoon wasn’t going to rival her past films like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama content-wise (I couldn’t imagine a film called ‘Wild’ being a rom-com). Here, Witherspoon plays Cheryl, a woman on a journey of self-discovery; that journey just happens to be 1,100-miles long.
‘Wild’, the film adaption of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ stands as an adventure for both Cheryl and the audience, however it’s easy to get lost in the meandering story. Greeted with flashbacks throughout the film, these are set off by trigger words, songs, sometimes even the weather. The flashbacks don’t allow enough time to really feel anything for Cheryl and it’s in fact her mother Bobbi, (Laura Dern) who digs deeper into Cheryl’s character, exposing her to the audience. Even still, the film does become hard to follow. Cheryl’s story remains interesting enough to engage the audience – or maybe it’s the sudden intercuts of heroin use and Witherspoon’s nude scenes? Trying to piece together a two-hour film after viewing isn’t the most exciting use of time, and that’s coming from someone who has watched Cloud Atlas. However Dern and Witherspoon manage to bounce off each other personality wise, creating an interesting dynamic as well as a strange mother-daughter relationship.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) succeeds in showing the beautiful yet lonely wilderness, making it easy to root for Cheryl as she goes on her journey. Witherspoon does a great job of expressing to the danger and the excitement of hiking alone as well as the struggles that accompany any journey: physical or metaphorical. The film’s message doesn’t come across as preachy, and it’s Cheryl’s reflective speech that really ties the whole film together: what if every decision she’d ever made brought her to this point in life? It’s an interesting thought that really put the film’s two hours into perspective.
Not a walk in the park by any means, ‘Wild’ is a reflective journey that looks at all choices in life and the impact that they have. An interesting watch to say the least; the film loses some of its spark mid-way through but picks up again towards the end begging the question of whether it is the journey we plan to take that is most important or the journey that eventually unfolds.