Reese Witherspoon stars in, helped produce and pretty much pushed into being this filming of Cheryl Strayed’s second book, the autobiographical Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée shortly after Dallas Buyers Club and adapted for the screen by no less than Nick Hornby, this could be compared to something like the Australian Tracks, but unlike that movie, in which Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) walks across the WA desert to seemingly escape something (what isn’t entirely clear), here Reese’s Cheryl is hiking the 1000-plus mile Trail in the mid-90s as a healing measure (although it frequently feels more like penance – or punishment). Initial humour at the sight of the small Witherspoon unable to lift a gigantic backpack gives way to the darker, episodic, non-chronological plot, as Cheryl, alone for long, long stretches of time, recalls her relationship with her fragile Mum Bobbi (Laura Dern), and how she seemed so alive when Cheryl was a kid, then seemed increasingly psychologically troubled as Cheryl grew up, and then fell ill. Strayed (a surname naturally discussed onscreen) also flashes back to how her resultant druggy and promiscuous behaviour so hurt her ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski from TV’s The Newsroom), as she struggles across grassy glades and, later, snowy peaks, and meets a small army of supporting characters. Vallée’s film is all about Reese, who’s in every scene and visibly loses weight as her trek continues. What a wonderful performance – and try not to let her haters drive you, well, wild.