Imagine taking a thousand-mile hike starting in Mexico and working your way along the Pacific all of the way up to Canada. You’ve only hiked a handful of times in your life, relying on a few travel guides and intuition to determine what to pack. Your shoes are a half size too small and you have no idea what you’re going to do when you finish. Sounds pretty intense, right?
Oh wait, I forgot one tiny detail: you’re doing the entire journey on your own.
You’ve come a long way, fleeing from Minnesota and you’ve lost everything that you value in your life. Your past includes family brokenness, an ongoing bout with cocaine, sexual promiscuity, and your own divorce.
If anxiety doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks at imagining that as your own story, then nothing else will. Since his last film, Dallas Buyers Club, director Jean-Marc Vallee has wasted no time getting back into the world of interpretive art and poetry in film through non-fictional stories. Wild is the internal narrative of Cheryl Strayed, as told in her book, which has become a New York Times Best Seller. Her story is one of battles and confrontations, facing her fears and conquering demons, even when resolution is nowhere to be found. Her trail is rugged and messy, with situations and experiences that contrast from comical to profound. But surprisingly, Wild is not a classic story of Hollywood adversity. This film includes no cheesy narration by the voice of God, nor does it drop in the inspiring music of Jose Gonzalez. And you certainly won’t find a redemptive one-liner that will end up on a millenials dorm room wall. This film is the raw skin that comes with a never-ending trail, the achiness of a weary traveler, and the beauty that only comes when you’ve truly explored the depths of yourself. Reese Witherspoon does a fantastic job in a film with minimal supporting actors and actresses to distract the attention away from her. With every step, ongoing flashbacks to the past connect you to Cheryl’s present-day drama, keeping you on-path and in-tune, connecting you with every ounce of her own being along the way. And if I had to summarize in just one statement, I think it’d be this:
“Self Discovery, via REI.”
A small note to those looking to take their young and inspired to see Wild; it seems as though Cheryl enjoyed a quality swear, dropping many profanities along the way. But let’s be real. Given the above circumstances, wouldn’t you?