Published Dec 05, 2014The strength of Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée's award-winning film the Dallas Buyers Club was ultimately its universal depiction of a group of people working together to try and overcome greater odds. Wild works in similar ways, engaging with the viewer by showcasing the courage of one individual battling her past and the world at large.
Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon, who also produced the film) is a strong character with a sad history. Her mother, Bobbi (played nicely by Laura Dern), was a selfless woman who worked tirelessly to mend her broken family, waiting tables while going to the same college as her daughter. But after Bobbi succumbs to a short and sudden battle with cancer, Cheryl's life is thrown into disarray, as she becomes untethered from society and those around her, travelling down a road of drug addiction and promiscuous sex while her husband and brother attempt to pick up the pieces at home.
Cheryl never seems particularly disappointed by her life decisions, but she still feels the need to take part in a 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to gain some closure. It's here — in the wide open and uninhabited locales of California, Oregon and Washington State – that Cheryl is able to close a sad chapter of her life, calming her soul with punishing pain (an early scene finds her stripping toenails off her feet after her hiking in too-small boots) and poetic musings about her life, love and hatred of the trail she just can't seem to quit.
It's easy to see similarities between this film and 2007's Into the Wild (both films are based on true stories and set in the early-to-mid-'90s), but somehow the lessons learned and experiences in Wild seem a lot more natural. Christopher McCandless was an over-confident character venturing into the unknown, while Cheryl seems unsure of herself almost every step of the way, making her story of resilience even more empathetic for the viewer.
If there's one downside to Wild, it's wrapped up a little too cleanly, with her last moments on the walk ending with more of a whimper than a bang. But, like life itself, this film is more about the journey than the destination.