Courageous, adventurous, and a little bit insane are a few words that can describe Cheryl Strayed’s journey across the Pacific Crest Trail. Her story is shared in the new film, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon.
The film opens up with Strayed at a low point in her hike. As a newbie hiker, she has bought boots that are a tad bit small. The after effect of this is shown and details are not left out. In the first few minutes of the film, the audience gets a sense of the pain Strayed had endured upon herself. She shows her feet which are blistered and incredibly bloody. Moments later (where I had my eyes closed it was THAT gross) she rips out her toenail. It only gets worse when her hiking boot takes its own trip down the mountain. Strayed is left toenail-less and without a pair of shoes until her next checkpoint. Welcome to Wild.
After the gruesome toenail incident, we learn the back story of Strayed and what sent her to pack her bags and head off into the middle of nowhere. Strayed did not have the best upbringing. Her father was an abusive alcoholic. After several years, her mother Bobbi (played by Laura Dern) finally managed to get them away. She escaped with Cheryl and her brother Leif to safety where they were able to begin a new life. From there on, Bobbie was determined to give all she could to her family.
Flash forward a few years and we see Cheryl and Bobbi taking classes at a local college together. They balance a life between being students, sometimes friends, but they keep their relationship strong as a family.
They have such a close relationship it is heartbreaking when the next chapter of their lives is cut short. Bobbi learns that she has cancer. The doctors tell her she will have about a year to live. However, she only survives a little over a month after the diagnosis. Cheryl is devastated over her mother’s death. When Bobbi died, a part of Cheryl did too.
After her mother’s death Cheryl gave up on herself. She cheated on her husband, experimented with drugs, and really lost faith in who she was. This was her normal for the next four years. Only after a pregnancy scare she was able to come to terms of what her life had become. She realized she had to do something and get herself back. Walking the Pacific Crest Trail was going to be the way to do that.
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,663 miles long and stretches between California, Oregon, and Washington. The trail finishes in Canada. At each travel station, Cheryl left her presence through some great literary authors. She shared meaningful quotes from Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Each time leaving a little food for thought for others on the same journey.
Cheryl was not the most experienced hiker. Her pack earned the nickname “The Monster” because of the useless crap she brought around with her. Still she managed to preserver and did not quit, even though she wanted to at times. The journey was not easy. She meet some sketchy people on her way and made some decisions she would later on regret. Strayed got caught without water and stuck in a snow storm. Somehow, she was able to make it to the end, coming back to herself.
Reese Witherspoon holds the story on her back (along with her million pound pack) bringing Wild to life. Besides a few scenes, the majority of the movie is just Witherspoon narrating her trek on the PCT. It is her strongest performance since she won an Oscar for Walk The Line. Witherspoon has been nominated for both a SAG and Golden Globe award this season. Although I don’t see her winning the award since there is so much hype around Julianne Moore and Still Alice, her performance is one that should not be ignored.
Another factor that should not be ignored is the beautiful scenery that surrounds Resse on her journey through the PCT. Jean-Marc Vallée, the director of the film, used the nature and natural elements in his favor. Surprisingly, only two main scenes were shot on the actual PCT. The remaining shots were mostly filmed in different locations around Oregon.
Wild is a must see this season. It is different from any other film playing right now. Screenwriter and author Nick Horby, (“About A Boy” and “A Long Way Down”) was able to take Cheryl Strayed’s travel log and bring it to life on the big screen.