Review: Wild (2014)

Wild-2014

Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallée brings Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical novel to life with Wild, an inspiring tale of Strayed’s painful yet life-affirming solo journey of more than one thousand miles across North America.

After countless personal traumas, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) makes the decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a long-distance hiking trail through the western states of America, alone as a way to heal herself of her pain. As she progresses, we bear witness to the touching and often heartbreaking memories deep in her mind that surface throughout her journey. Cheryl’s childhood, teenage years and the untimely death of her mother, played by Laura Dern, all feature heavily in these intermittent flashbacks, slowly building up the story behind Cheryl’s seemingly bizarre decision.

Where Witherspoon’s performance lacks, Dern’s is outstanding, her mere presence evoking a wide realm of emotions within the audience. Yet, with a running time of nearly two hours, Wild could quite easily have been cut down to a shorter length, in order to not draw out the repetitive and tiresome nature of the story any more than necessary.

The scenery of the western states is captured beautifully, and the soundtrack consisting primarily of 1960s hits set the mood of the film. The sound editing, transitioning between Cheryl’s humming, the singing playing out in her memories, and the music she hears on her journey, is superlative and undoubtedly one of the strongest elements of the feature.

The structure is unusual, but is effective in drawing on the emotions of Cheryl’s past, yet it appears on screen with a pretentious air about it at times. Nevertheless, Witherspoon and Dern give strong performances that keep this two hour feature standing where it would otherwise fall.

★★★

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2 Responses to Review: Wild (2014)

  1. tony flynn says:

    Agree with your review which was fair and balanced. I don’t feel that Wild really got me involved. Reece Witherspoon generally performs best in comedy, although she has on occasion shown that she can shine in serious roles, as in Walk the Line. Here she failed to convince me that her journey involved much in the way of a struggle – apart from some short-lived threats it was all too easy-going. Also while I too am a fan of Laura Dern, all those flashbacks of her grinning like a cheshire cat just became tiresome.
    Wild brought to mind the recent Australian film, Tracks, also based on a book about a lone journey made by a young woman (Robyn Davidson) across a hostile landscape, with some lovely photography. I would probably give that the same rating – 3 stars – as you did to Wild.

    • Rosie says:

      To be honest, all in all, I didn’t particularly enjoy the film, but I couldn’t actually pinpoint the technical flaws in it which made it quite hard to review! Agreed about Witherspoon – I still don’t consider her a ‘serious’ actress, and I’m not sure that that will ever change. Ah yes, I haven’t seen Tracks. These ‘lone journey’ types of films aren’t usually my cup of tea, so it’s unusual for me to go out of my way to see them! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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