"I'm lonelier in my real life than I am out here."
From the director of Dallas Buyer’s Club comes this very different yet also remarkably similar film. DBC was a very interesting and unique perspective on a story that could have been portrayed very differently in the hands of another director. So another journey of self-discovery should be right up Jean Marc Vallee’s street.
Overcome by grief and addiction a desolate woman called Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) undertakes an epic hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. She has virtually nothing in terms of preparation for the physical or emotional hardship that lies ahead of her.
It would be difficult to make a film about hiking so interesting. But if Whiplash proved anything if you have the talent you can make a riveting story out of almost anything (exceptions might include stamp collecting and writing reviews for films on a blog, guess which one I do).
One of the aspects that makes this film so interesting is that I’m immediately thrown into the journey. It’s by seeing things along the way that Cheryl is reminded of her past and so do we through flashbacks. But a lot was left out for a majority of the film. So not only was I following the central character on her physical journey and emotional turmoil but I was also trying to piece together and try to get a perspective of her reasons for doing what she is. It becomes a sort of emotional mystery.
But this play on revelations at certain points can get tiresome sometimes. Occasionally you struggle to see the significance of one moment against the larger backdrop and not all of them are given closure or a thorough enough explanation by the end. It can be difficult to relate to a character when so many of her motives are kept a secret for so long.
Reese Witherspoon is amazing in this role. The film relies on her acting credibility a lot and it pays off for every section. It’s a raw and painfully real portrayal of a character that although you can admire for deciding to kick her previous addictions and take part in this astonishing challenge set for herself you also pity for having been allowed to sink so low until now. The only emotion that you do not feel towards her is boredom.
In a film centred on the outdoors so much the cinematography would have to be up to top standards. And it is, capturing the beauty and brutality of the wild throughout. When Cheryl is content and happy with the progress of her journey the environment is portrayed as her friend. When she begins to struggle it becomes an enemy that is laughing at her and has to be conquered if she can retain any fragments of her tormented life.
Wild also never needs to resort to sentimentality or stoop to manipulation in order to achieve its emotions. Though she may be centre of the film it relies on her a bit too much at times. Though as a character Cheryl is intriguing, the world around her isn’t as interesting to the same extent. I felt as if her reactions to what happens make up too much of the film and although her reactions are believable they can become unusually specific for the plot to continue down that route.
Wild is an emotionally raw, brave and quiet coming of age story that manages to avoid falling into cliché and skirts around the classic formula whilst also using Witherspoon’s acting credibility to give it some real heart and emotion.