Based on the best selling book by Cheryl Strayed; Wild tells the biographical tale of Strayed’s 1100 mile hike in repentance and reflection after the death of her mother and subsequent turmoil in which she fell.
From director Jean-Marc Vallée (who directed Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to Oscars in last year’s dramatic hit Dallas Buyers Cowboys) the imagery crafted here is powerful, thought provoking and on the right side of intense.
From the off set this film is coming at you quick and hard; even the shots of Witherspoon walking dazed through the desert have their impact. What was most pleasing with this film was its disregard of the normal narrative flow; the narrative works mainly through the presentation of memory, its associated emotional responses and the reappearance they have throughout her trek. The intertwining of her life pre-trek and during the excursion give this film a strong foothold in its exploration of the effect death has on us.
It’s fair to say Reese Witherspoon’s dramatic talents are used far and few between; this however is her finest work since 2005’s Walk the Line – with which she won her first Oscar – and it’s no surprise this performance has garnered her her second Best Actress Oscar nomination. She plays Strayed with strength, resilience and whole lot of empathy.
The use of the rucksack is interesting not just as a prop that fits the bill within the narrative; but as a tool to which her grief manifested within. It is not just heavy with her equipment, it represents the emotional baggage that she is carrying through her journey.
Though there is not much presence of a cast; the supporting actors that are present make Witherspoon’s scenes that much more powerful. The near blink and you’ll miss it performance of Laura Dern as Bobbi (Strayed’s mother) is entirely captivating in the short scenes she has, as are the interactions between her ex-husband and her fellow hikers she meets on the trail.
With it’s scenic visuals and commanding performances Wild is definitely a must see.