I’m not sure this film will make quite the impact on you as it did me unless you’re into hiking. Obstacles the main character faces on her hike definitely spoke to me since I could relate it back to a hike I did in New Zealand. If you’ve ever over-packed a back pack then had to brace yourself against a wall to stand up, you’ll relate. If you’ve ever forgotten to pack the fuel to cook your meal-in-a-pouch dinner and had to eat it raw, you’ll relate. That feeling of quitting one day into a two day hike but knowing it is senseless; pragmatism is forced to the foreground whether you like it or not.
The story revolves around Cheryl Strayed’s response to multiple life tragedies. Her response , a form of self-imposed therapy, was to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which spans the entire length of California from Mexico to Canada. Doing this in a group is challenging enough but she did it solo. This is a true story, apparently made into a book and then this film.
While most of the story is told linearly and in first person narration, there were plenty of flashback sequences to give you sufficient background to answer the question ‘why would someone do this?’ I liked the longer flashback sequences, mostly surrounding the relationship with her mother and husband. The shorter 1-2 second flashback sequences I found a little irritating midway through. I get that this is sometimes how we remember things, in small, disconnected bursts, but for me, it didn’t add much to the story progression.
A very un-glamourous version of Reese Witherspoon does an outstanding job portraying Strayed. I speculate that the director actually staged some of the situations to generate an authentic frustration from Witherspoon since you feel that viscerally throughout. Frustration at her failed marriage, her mother diagnosed with cancer, her impulsive hike which came to light after reading a hiking rag.
In the end Strayed’s hike along the PCT, though she faces unexpected obstacles, dangers and frustrations, is ultimately cathartic. You the viewer, in case you have not done this yourself, will get to see some amazing scenery mostly shot in Oregon and Washington. For me, the scenery alone was worth watching this film, it was a bonus to learn about Strayed’s amazing journey and to witness Witherspoon in yet another Oscar-worthy performance; shes come a long way since Legally Blonde.
I curse thee Wild film, since now I feel compelled to hike the PCT.