“Wild” follows the true story of Cheryl Strayed, who walked 1,000 miles on what is known as the Pacific Crest Trail and documented it in a book. Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed, who goes on the journey as a way of healing herself following multiple traumatic and tragic events in her life.
As she goes along her journey, Strayed meets a number of different characters and personalities and begins to recover as a person.
“Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallee who helmed last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club,” doesn’t use a linear timeline structure and instead opts to tell the story through way of flashbacks. The way flashbacks were used throughout the film worked phenomenally well, as we as an audience were able to fully explore what led this woman to take this journey and how it affected her life.
Through the use of flashbacks intertwined with her long hiking journey, the film displays the character’s fear, hopes, failures, triumphs, depression and happiness. All of these well studied characteristics in the movie result in “Wild” being one of the strongest emotional pictures of 2014.
Strayed’s journey on the hiking trail is very internal and personal. However, the story-telling is aided by various side characters she meets along the way, making what she experiences more relatable. Some of them are good, some are bad and some just fall in a grey area. Yet every side character in the film seem to play a purpose and Strayed seemed to walk away a stronger person after each encounter with another individual.
In both figurative and literal ways, Witherspoon puts this movie on her back and carrys much of it by herself. It was clear from the start that Witherspoon had to do many physical acts to properly portray what Strayed did. For example, the backpack Witherspoon had to carry while filming was very heavy, and Witherspoon sells it solidly. She also displays all of the emotion that was previously mentioned with a raw, gritty, real and honest performance.
Despite being Witherspoon’s movie, other side characters were well acted, especially the role of Strayed’s mother who the audience is able to meet through the flashbacks. Strayed’s mother Bobbi was wonderfully portrayed by Laura Dern, who came across as both a strong and wholesome woman which helped to build the film’s emotional core. Dern also had fantastic chemistry with Witherspoon.
The film additionally benefited from gorgeous cinematography. Many of the scenes in the film were shot on location and, along with Witherspoon’s physical performance, brought the audience into the situations that the lead character was going through. Not only did it make the movie compelling, it also made it beautiful to look at.
“Wild” may be 2014’s most gripping film in terms of emotion. The film explores how tragedy and turmoil can hit someone and they can walk away from that as a stronger person. Great acting, storytelling and cinematography make “Wild” deserving of a 5 out of 5.