Reese Witherspoon’s back in top form with Wild, the emotionally moving adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon not only stars in but produces the film, and her dedication to faithfully bringing Strayed’s story to the screen is evident in every frame. Tackling the physically demanding role, and putting vanity and comfort aside, Witherspoon delivers a performance that should have her back in the Oscar spotlight.
Directed by Dallas Buyers Club‘s Jean-Marc Vallée, Wild focuses on one women’s very personal search for answers following the death of her mother. Cheryl dissolved into an abyss of degradation, losing herself in sex with random men and turning to drugs to forget the pain of the death of her mother at age 45. Cheryl’s bad decisions ultimately led to the collapse of her marriage and her decision to set out alone (and not completely prepared) to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1,000+ mile, three month journey of self-discovery that offered her the opportunity to get in touch with her feelings and to cleanse her mind and body.
The difference in age between the real Cheryl Strayed at the time of her quest to complete the Pacific Crest Trail and actress Witherspoon is 10 years, however Witherspoon’s youthful appearance makes it easy to forget the woman at the heart of the story was in her 20s when she tackled the grueling trek. Nearly every scene is Witherspoon’s to carry and she does an excellent job of capturing the emotional roller coaster Cheryl was on immediately prior to and throughout the course of the arduous hike.
Wild‘s beautifully shot by Yves Belanger, and director Vallée – working from a script by Nick Hornby (About a Boy, An Education) – makes Strayed’s intensely personal journey accessible to the audience. Even if we can’t relate to the events and wouldn’t make the same life choices (and can’t picture ourselves walking 1,000 miles in Cheryl’s shoes), Wild is an emotionally engaging film and one that conveys the pain, heartbreak, and ultimately the redemption of Cheryl’s incredible journey.
Wild is rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language.
-By Rebecca Murray
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