Wild. 2014

Directed by …. Jean-Marc Vallée
Writing Credits …. Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed Based on the memoir: “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

Cinematography … Yves Bélanger
Runtime 115 min Color
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera: Arri Alexa XT, Zeiss Master Prime and Super Speed Lenses

Reese Witherspoon … Cheryl
Laura Dern … Bobbi
Thomas Sadoski … Paul
Keene McRae … Leif
Michiel Huisman … Jonathan
W. Earl Brown … Frank
Gaby Hoffmann … Aimee
Kevin Rankin … Greg
Brian Van Holt … Ranger
Cliff De Young … Ed

★ ★ ★ ☆ A


Wild could very easily fail. It, like 127 Hours or Life of Pi features a character alone in the wilderness for a very large part of the film. However, those films were tales of survival. This is not. Rather, this film sees a woman walk a very long way in little to no physical danger as a way to get over incidents and problems in the past. As Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) puts it, “I’m going to walk my way to the woman my mother wanted me to be.” That’s very nice, but since walking has no direct correlation to her mother’s death, or her resulting drug (heroin) addiction and nymphomania-induced infidelity, it seems nearly impossible to connect the two in a filmic way.

However the film succeeds at this Herculean task with outstanding editing. At the beginning of the film when Cheryl prepares for her hike, we get little glimpses of past events without any context, usually brought about by something. Later in the film, we get to deconstruct each little glimpse as we see it in context. Then, we get to see her overcome some physical obstacle on the PTC. The editing however , leads us to, subconsciously or not, connect the two events, making it feel like she has overcome her problem. Even more brilliantly, each major memory/flashback is introduced and connected by a song, sometimes sung, other times played diagetically, which played at the time of the event we are flashing back to.

The other thing that makes this film work though is Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed. I doubt a better performance is possible here. She gives an emotional yet realistic portrayal responsible for guiding the entire film. That said, Laura Dern, who plays Cheryl’s ill and abused mother, also gave a fantastic performance, however, I’m not sure that someone else couldn’t have done the same thing. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, though. For instance, Paul (Thomas Sadoski of The Newsroom) was perfectly genuine as the Strayed’s husband of seven-years, while actors like Kevin Rankin (coincidentally, also on The Newsroom), Michael Huisman, and W. Earl Brown, along with a cavalcade of other unknowns, provide an interesting assortment of characters for Ms. Strayed to meet along the way. However, only Sadowski had a worthwhile part among them.
All in all, while this film had a few struggles to overcome, such as a lack luster conclusion, it was a very enjoyable one. Depressing, but enjoyable.

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