Call of the wild

This is my review of Wild [DVD] [2014].

"Wild" opens with Cheryl Strayed hiking the arduous 1100 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada with a monstrous backpack, feet bloodied by ill-fitting boots, never knowing whether the next incident will be a mishap or encounter with an act of kindness or passing friendship. The film is based on the best-selling real-life memoir of a woman who embarked on this challenge as a way of "saving herself" after a failed marriage, destroyed by her descent into drug addiction and promiscuity. The reasons for this decline – although she comes to regard it as part of the process of developing -, in particular the sudden loss of the person she loves most, are gradually revealed. We learn about her past in a series of flashbacks, some so fleeting as to be almost subliminal. Despite abandoning college, Cheryl has a deep love and knowledge of poetry and literature, some of which she cannot bear to discard to lighten her pack. The literary messages she leaves in the books stored en route – intended to keep track of walkers – make a deep impression on other hikers even the rowdy threesome of boys she meets towards the end. Apart from the mixture of poignancy and humour, the scenery is remarkable, with dramatic changes of both topography, from mountain and crater lake to grassy plains, and climate – hot sun, drenching rain and snow. I was also struck by the emptiness of the wilderness, as Cheryl seemed to hike without seeing another soul for days on end, only to have the odd sudden intimate encounter, sometimes uplifting, occasionally a menacing reminder of her vulnerability.

Reese Witherspoon puts in an excellent performance as Cheryl – despite being in her late thirties, she retains a youthful, girlish quality. Laura Dern is also very effective as her inspirational mother with an indestructible love of each new day of life.

My only reservation is that, in changing the facts of Cheryl's past life a little perhaps to make the plot tighter, sadder and more dramatic, some areas of confusion have been introduced unnecessarily, which I found annoying.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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