You can tell it is now ‘Oscar’ season at the cinemas. The yearly mass releases of all Academy Award-nominated movies are now doing the rounds. This is the movie that has earned Reese Witherspoon her next Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Actress’. Finally arriving on the big screen in the UK, I’ve had the chance to sit down and watch WILD.
In 1995, Cheryl Strayed decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone as a way to heal herself following her divorce, the death of her mother, and years of reckless, destructive behavior.
Based on Cheryl Strayed’s own memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, WILD starts off with “Cheryl” starting her 1100 mile hike on her own and prepared to a certain degree, but obviously not an experienced walker or hiker. As the film progresses, we get to see flashbacks to “Cheryl’s” troubled past, from her relationship with her abusive father, her relationship with her estranged brother, alcohol and drug related problems as well as divorce from her husband “Paul”. But most notably, we get to see and feel “Cheryl’s” bond and close relationship to her mother, “Bobby” (played superbly by Laura Dern, earning herself an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Supporting Actress’), providing the back story to the movie. After her mother’s untimely death, “Cheryl” takes it upon herself to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This journey is the main focus of the movie, where we as the viewer follow in the footsteps and ‘tag along’ the journey with “Cheryl”.
We follow pretty much every step along the huge 1100 mile journey, following the struggles and difficulties that “Cheryl” faces day to day, although the main focus of the movie is “Cheryl’s” struggle in her own mind. Hearing her inner monologue as she searches for herself during the hike offers some light comedic elements to break up the solemnness, the loneliness and the stresses of trying to push on to achieve what she never thought she could.
As I said above, Reese Witherspoon has earned herself another Academy Award nomination for “Best Actress”. Do I feel it’s justified? Most certainly! Reese provides a fully three-dimensional turn as “Cheryl Strayed”, playing the woman searching for herself to make her mother proud. I’ve certainly come to appreciate her more as an actress and the same can be said for Laura Dern who is fantastic as “Bobby”. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, he has created a somewhat powerful soul searching wilderness adventure movie that looks fantastic on screen. It’s a gritty, fairly bleak looking movie that helps the tone of the movie, making you feel the same things as “Cheryl” feels whilst we are hiking alongside her.
I left the cinema unsure of my thoughts on the movie itself, but in the little time I’ve had to reflect on it, I highly recommend the movie. It’s a true soul searching movie, with a certain feeling of ‘if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything’ mentality. It tells you to never give up, no matter how bad things get. I wouldn’t say it’s a feel-good movie, as in my opinion it’s not. It’s certainly downbeat most of the time, but will raise a laugh or two in certain places.