Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.
Have you ever had a crazy idea in your head? Have you ever gone through with it and if you have, did implementing it change you or did it prove something to you?
I have never hiked, but I have friends who have done some crazy hikes. I have no survival skills. However, one day in a post partum depression phase after a walk, I decided to run a marathon. I needed to prove something to myself, at least, that I could do something with my life. Checking off the miles on my training schedule had me progressing and pushing my limits. Every long run meant a mental endurance hurdle I had get over. I’ve seen sunrise after a 25 km run, and sunset after clocking in 32 kms. They were both lonely sights, for there is no fanfare at the end of your training finishes.
Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild is nothing like the above and everything like it. Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl, a woman seeking redemption after the early sudden of her mother, her failed marriage, and her spiraling descent into drug abuse. She decides to hike 1, 100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail which takes her from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to the borders of Washington State. Through flashbacks and pivotal moments of her life before her long walk, we are given a rounded view of her journey. The time changing is smooth and spliced together with nostalgic music played with either the original artists or through covers.
Witherspoon is at her best in a raw and stripped down performance in story that is all too human. Her small frame carrying an obviously heavy pack punches in the metaphor of a lone person taking on her personal demons.
While Strayed is surrounded by the most alienated landscapes, the beautifully photographed deserts denote a harsh environment full of inspiring and perilous possibilities. She must endure thirst, rattlesnakes, extreme heat and frozen temperatures in her trek, even possible rape. Meeting a variety of folk along the trail she shares a little about herself to them, revealing an intelligent woman with a strong character despite and because of the mistakes in her past.
Witherspoon is at her best in a raw and stripped down performance in story that is all too human. Her small frame carrying an obviously heavy pack punches in the metaphor of a lone person taking on her personal demons. Desperation and victory are clearly read in her eyes, a fine view into the character she inhabits so well. It’s noted in interviews I’ve read with Witherspoon that she believes it’s quite a departure from her previous roles. There’s nudity and drug use, but her achievement in this role speaks to her further potential at deeper characters. Witherspoon is a tour de force in Wild. Laura Dern is a great foundation to bounce off of in this film as her character’s mother. You empathize with the mother’s plight, not just because of her circumstances, but in her efforts to rise above them.
If you look up Wild in imdb, the plot keyword is “female protagonist.” This infuriates me to no end. At one point in the film, she is stopped by a reporter for the “Hobo Times.” As soon as Strayed becomes frustrated, the reporter says, “You sound like a feminist.” She responds, “Yeah, I am a feminist.”
Labeling this film as a chick flick is akin to labeling films with male leads as boy flicks, which is plain ridiculous. Wild is a personal tale of survival and eventual triumph and I encourage everyone to watch it as such.
The story of this woman is a universal one, but one that is from the perspective of her climate in the here and now. She helped out by both men and women throughout her ordeal, some go out their way to do it. But there’s no denying the very real scare the audience feels when she’s alone on a dark trail and encounters a solitary male. Vallée doesn’t back away from addressing the real danger for her in those scenes. Yet how many male protagonists go on self-help and have their stories plugged as all-pervading tales? Labeling this film as a chick flick is akin to labeling films with male leads as boy flicks, which is plain ridiculous. Wild is a personal tale of survival and eventual triumph and I encourage everyone to watch it as such.
One can find self-salvation through trekking a thousand miles or taking on a hobby you’ve always wanted to. To the long runs and the short lessons in writing, it’s all the same story over and over again and it’s awesome in its individual perspectives. I’ve completed several marathons since that day I decided on running one. So have other men and woman. Wild is an amazing story with strong actors. Go see it.
Wild is an amazing story with strong actors. Go see it.