The death of her mom Bobbi (Laura Dern), a divorce from her husband (Thomas Sadoski), and years of self-destructive choices cause Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) to rashly decide on a trek from the Mexican border to Canada. The audience sees flashbacks illustrating the painful memories that brought Cheryl to this drastic measure as she encounters people along the way that help her heal. Through the hike, which Strayed wrote about in her best-selling book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl is able to rediscover who she is, shed the past, and learn how to move forward.
In an Oscar-nominated performance, Witherspoon perfectly portrays the physical and emotional journey experienced on the expedition. It is one of her most powerful and believable roles. Perhaps being inspired by real events and having Strayed as a large part of the making of the film provided a foundation for her to launch from. Strayed makes a brief appearance in the film along with her husband and son, and her daughter even plays the young version of herself.
I have always been a huge fan of Dern and she sparkles in every precious moment she has onscreen, which earned her an Oscar nomination as well. She is wonderful playing the wise mom who has learned to embrace life even after everything she has had to endure. My only complaint is how small her part is.
The film is beautifully shot in actual areas where Cheryl originally hiked. Director Jean-Marc Vallée is able to transport the viewer into the the world she encountered. The incredible scenery becomes a major character. The beauty inherent in nature deepens emotions, provides strength, courage, peacefulness, and chaos.
Several special features are included on the Blu-ray release. “The Real Cheryl Strayed” provides behind-the-scenes information from Strayed along with cast and crew. “The Real Location is the Best Location” highlights the importance of choosing the right locations for filming. “How Much Does a Monster Weigh?” focuses on the significance of Cheryl’s 70-pound backpack. The interactive map of the Pacific Crest Trail allows exploration of the exact path she took and details of the route. There are also deleted scenes, seven behind-the-scenes promotional featurettes, an audio commentary by Vallee and producers Bruna Papandrea and David Greenbaum, a photo gallery, a theatrical trailer, and a special message from Cheryl Strayed about the Pacific Crest Trail.
Wild is about overcoming life’s challenges. It is an inspiring, thought-provoking film, with every moment to be savored. I watched several scenes multiple times to soak it all in. While we don’t all have the ability to stop our lives for 90 days and assess who we are and what we want to be, we all have the power to make the most out of life and as the movie says “find our best self.”
There are many quotes that will stick with me long after the movie but one warrants sharing: “there is a sunrise and sunset everyday and you can chose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” Watch this film and embrace the beauty.