After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
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Based on a true story. After graduating from Emory University, Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire savings account to charity, and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life.Written by
Stunning scenery, brilliant directing from Sean Penn, soulful songs from Eddie Vedder, and a remarkable, true story. Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is a college graduate from an affluent upbringing who decides to abandon his possessions and money and to live life out on the road, ala Jack London or Jack Kerouac during parts of their lives. He's a fascinating character because of his idealism and his nonconformity; he's intelligent and kind, and yet he doesn't value human relationships, preferring solitude and a deep connection to nature. Hirsch plays the part very well, displaying an easy, personable warmth but at the same time a determination to go his own way, damn the consequences. He also really looks the part, including scenes where he had to lose quite a bit of weight. His character is troubled from an upbringing that was riddled with strife, and in one moments says so simply (and sadly) "Some people feel like they don't deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past," and yet we get the feeling that is just one aspect of a complicated and yet simple guy.
I think some people are turned off by what they feel was a glorification, but I didn't feel that way at all. We see the trail of tears he leaves behind him, with his parents and sister devastated by not hearing from him, and him ignoring some of the kindly advice he receives along the way. He is also brutal to an old man (Hal Holbrook) who so very generously offers to adopt him, in what is a fantastic scene. Holbrook is also brilliant when he tells the young man "when you forgive, you love." We see him take risks which pay off (kayaking down a rampaging river), and of course others which do not (going into the true wild of Alaska without a map or enough preparation). For that he is sometimes vilified or mocked, but I admired him for not conforming like the rest of us, and for living life on his own terms. He certainly was not cheated. And in the end, he has his moment of realization, that "happiness (is) only real when shared", which is a moment that is incredibly poignant.
I loved the literary references in the film, starting with the title card quoting Byron, which seems so perfect: "There is a pleasure in the pathless woods; / There is a rapture on the lonely shore; / There is society, where none intrudes, / By the deep sea, and music in its roar; / I love not man the less, but Nature more..."
And at the end as I thought about McCandless's life, I thought that this passage from Thoreau was nowhere more suitable: "Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
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