With the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has lost all hope. After years of reckless, destructive behavior, she makes a rash decision. With absolutely no experience, driven only by sheer determination, Cheryl hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddens, strengthen, and ultimately heals her. Written by
A wonderful performance from Reese Witherspoon anchors this very good film about a troubled young woman who embarks on a miles-long hike as a sort of personal therapy to deal with the downward spiral of her life in the wake of her mother's (Laura Dern) death. Witherspoon reminds everyone what a good actress she is; I haven't been this impressed by her as an actress since "Election" way back in 1999 (and that includes her overrated Oscar-winning performance in "Walk the Line"). And it's nice to see Laura Dern again, who's popped up here and there over the past many years but has mostly been absent from the movie scene. The movie's editor deftly integrates flashbacks of Dern and Witherspoon together with the character's hike through the wild, and avoids the monotony that usually plagues films when structured this way.
One of the minor miracles of "Wild" is how subtly it explores not just the trials and dangers one would encounter in such a hike, but specifically how those trials and dangers are heightened, or at least are of a different nature, for a woman. Only once in the film is it overtly addressed, but before that scene late in the film, the director and Witherspoon have already conveyed without words how perilous such an adventure could be for a young woman, for whom every encounter with a strange man carries with it the possibility of sexual predation, even if it doesn't materialize (which, the film acknowledges, in most cases it doesn't). At the same time, the film restores one's faith a little bit in humanity, suggesting that most people are decent and kind and willing to help, no strings attached.
Witherspoon and Dern were both justly Oscar nominated for their performances, and the gorgeous Pacific West scenery deserved an award of its own.
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