Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Jean-Marc Vallee's Wild offers an exceptional visual version of what could have been largely an interior journey.
Indeed, Strayed herself refers to her three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail as a journey to find herself. It doesn't get much more interior than that. Yet Wild - the movie of the book - manages to tell a tale as large and daunting as the great outdoors.
As played by Reese Witherspoon, Strayed is a woman at the end of her rope when she decides to walk the PCT. But, as the film opens, she's come to a kind of dead end mid-journey: On a rock ledge on the trail, somewhere in the mountains, she sheds her hiking boots to tend to her ravaged feet (she's about to lose the toenail from her big toe) - when she accidentally loses one of her hiking boots over a precipice. Now what?
That takes us back to the beginning of the journey, if not the story. Nick Hornby's screenplay finds ways to toggle between the hike and the life before it; together with Vallee, he uses moments on the trail to trigger memories, which appear in alternately brief flashes and extended flashbacks. It's a well-crafted device that captures that momentary dislocation that comes when a smell - or a song or an image - suddenly vaults you back to a moment in your past.
Strayed's past was a challenging one.
This review continues on my website.