Wild (2014)

Wild (2014)
  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama
  • Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
  • Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern


A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.


  • Everyone reviews everything today. You can research 50000 varying opinions on toothpicks before you buy them for a dollar. But in this day and age of yelp, ratings, stars and everyone’s opinions being weighed scrutinized and measured can take a lot of the fun out of doing anything, including going to the movies whereas sometimes you say screw the ratings and go with your gut.

    I wanted to see Wild after first hearing about it and thought it looked very interesting, but then did exactly what I’m advising against; searched for reviews, rating, pros, cons…before I plunked down my money. I had someone actually talk me out of seeing this movie because they heard it wasn’t good, but then another friend told me she did want to see it and hadn’t really paid any attention to reviews. I thought good. I will go see with this person instead since they haven’t been influenced by outside opinions.

    Saw this today and absolutely loved it. Thought it was an incredible story of courage, bravery and redemption. Thought Reese was incredible and the flashback scenes with her mom touching and heartbreaking. There are so many beautiful scenes that will touch your heart including the little boy who sings to her. There are also hilarious scenes such as the man who rights for Hobo Magazine and insists on calling her a hobo. Her encounters with other hikers and people on her journey reminded me of the movie “into the wild” though she actually survives. Don’t think that’s a spoiler since obviously she had to live to write the book.

    Maybe this movie isn’t for everyone, but I and my friend both truly enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • Hi Melissa,

      I totally agree with what you think about the fact that everyone’s opinion on everything is much more accessible these days and it can take the fun out of things. However criticism of art does have a purpose in our society and is a good starting point for motivating discussion amongst people (hell when you get together with friends and talk about a movie/tv show/whatever this is a form of criticism/reviewing). When it comes to watching movies, I have always been of the mindset that it is probably best to see said movie before reading a review because then you can see how you agree with a particular reviewers analysis of that movie. Also if I hear certain things about a movie I still see it before I make up my mind because tastes differ so much from person to person.

  • ‘A woman hikes alone for over 1000 miles to get over her mother’s death, her divorce and her self destructive behaviour’

    This does not exactly sound like a story that would make a brilliant film. It sounds simple, slow, and you would be spending virtually all of the film with only one cast member… all of these elements are actually what make Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild so damn good!

    The film follows 26-year-old Cheryl (played by Reese Witherspoon)in her hike across the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT as she refers to it) in a bid to heal her mind of all the past damage she has afflicted upon herself over the previous 4 years since her mother’s passing; from excessive sex and heavy drug abuse, Cheryl has some serious ground to cover, both physically and emotionally. She meets many challenges including water running low and bad foot injuries (the opening scene involving a toenail will make you wince, just warning you) and characters that help her find her centre throughout this perilous trek.

    First off, Reese Witherspoon has a seriously intimidating mouton to climb, and not just throughout the film. With nearly every single camera shot in the movie featuring her, Witherspoon is required to push well beyond what most actors would consider a tough gig. However she is absolutely fantastic in this film and does everything required and more. With blistering feet and a blistering performance, she commands the screen with an incredible strength, combined with a vulnerability to her troubled character. Cheryl was completely out of her element on the hike but adapted to her situations and Witherspoon has done the same with a fervour and passion for the story that seeps through the screen and pulls you in. Not bad for someone who is also one of the film’s producers.

    The supporting cast are really well chosen as well, in spite of very limited screen time. Laura Dern is awesome as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi. She has the task of getting you not only enough of the exposition you need, but also to emotionally invest you in Cheryl’s journey and the reasoning behind it. She is excellent in every scene she is in and really gets you behind Cheryl’s recovery. Keene McRae, while very limited in screen time, is excellent as Cheryl’s brother Leif. Some of the cast are surprise entries, some of Breaking Bad and Deadwood fame. The only performance that I thought was weaker was that of Thomas Sadoski as Cheryl’s ex-husband. While he played the part well, there was a little bit of uncertainty in his emotional angles. I can visualise him asking Vallée repeated question like ‘How angry should I be?’ ‘How sad should I be?’ ‘How serious should I be?’ without ever quite hitting the intended mark. In all fairness to him his performance really is fine overall, it just sticks out for miles when compared alongside Witherspoon’s tour de force. Obviously the limited screen time doesn’t help his character either.

    Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction is awesome throughout the entire film. Both visually and creatively, he clearly has the right eye for every scene. He captures the Pacific Crest Trail beautifully, giving us the unforgiving yet stunning scenery without ever directing the focus away from Witherspoon. The true beauty of his direction is that the eye-candy shots are kept to a minimum and they are almost entirely just background shots to the actors. This really grounds the scenery and helps the viewer to visualise themselves in Strayed’s shoes, instead of simply admiring landscape shots and thinking ‘wow that’s pretty’. The use of flashback is awesome as well, with a particular focus on quick, silent glimpses into the past that are later addressed at length. This is a masterstroke of baiting the audience’s curiosity further in. Every flashback is also seamlessly connected to an action in Cheryl’s journey; it may come from a line of dialogue or a movement of a shoe, but no changes in time or place are made without there being a specific and logical reason behind it. It is beautifully directed and flows phenomenally.

    The soundtrack is pretty forgettable as it is virtually all simply well known songs and they are mostly diagetic within the film. There isn’t much else to say on it, other than the songs are well chosen and brilliantly subtle. A lot of the songs are so well timed in the story that you’ll likely look back afterwards and realise how stupidly convenient they were for that point in Cheryl’s journey It’s a simple filmmaking method but it works over the subconscious to great effect.

    With a premise as simple as this one, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the subtext is clearly of greater importance than the text. Wild is a great message for not allowing grief to overcome you, not letting poor past decisions overshadow a greater future, taking life by the reigns and rolling with it and using immediate problems to create long term solutions. It also promotes detaching yourself from everything that holds you down and the under-appreciated benefits of alone time. On another note, it also sure as hell got me in the mood for hiking. The only issue this film sometimes has is its desire to hint at potential avenues and then avoid them completely. Where one scene gives the feeling that this film will be a lot lighter, another gives the hint that we’re veering towards a creepy thriller, without either one being the case. These scenes are still great scenes and add as much flavour to the film as any other, but they could perhaps have been handled a little better.

    The script is outstanding and one of the absolute high points of the film. Nick Hornby has given one of my favourite scripts of the past year. It’s witty and very funny at points, but most of all it is an exceptional examination of Cheryl’s character and a truly relatable, moving work. The dialogue flows naturally with a very human heart to it and it’s never less than awesome.

    Overall this is a sensational film with a simple but intensely deep story addressing the human condition; while a couple of slips and slides do occur, a stunning career-high performance from Reese Witherspoon, an excellent supporting cast, awesome visuals, killer direction and a haunting message make this a treat for film lovers. Those who go to see films for action and intensity will probably not find much here, but as an emotional experience that will bring about much thought and discussion post-viewing, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild is well worth the trek.


  • Based on the true story memoir, Wild is about Cheryl Strayed, portrayed by Reese Witherspoon (Devil’s Knot), who goes on a 1,100 mile solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to heal from her self destructive behavior. Not only does Wild put you off hiking (if you ever had the urge), but it also shows that with a story so simple, this film solely focused on one character can be highly interesting and entertaining.

    First things first, if you are of a squeamish disposition, I’d heavily advise to look away from the screen for the first few minutes, as we see Cheryl rip her big toenail off. Don’t let that put you off, as what is most surprising about it, is there’s actually a lot to Wild, on the surface it seems like it would be slow and boring, however the humour and flashbacks bring a lot to the film and really keeps your interest. As expected there are a load of exposition shots and many scenes of Cheryl walking, but they only take up a small amount of the time.

    What is most evident, is that Reese Witherspoon is relevant again, for the past ten years (since Walk the Line in 2005) Witherspoon’s career has been stagnant, with irrelevant films that would…
    To read the full review click here.

  • “I’m lonelier in my real life than I am out here,” Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) confesses at one point in Wild, the true account of her 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to the mountains of Oregon. Solitude often breeds fortitude, and Wild proves itself an ultimately touching, if occasionally flawed, addition to the canon of films depicting individuals who lose themselves in order to renew themselves.

    Cheryl’s hike serves as both an exorcism and a redemption song. Her mother Bobbi’s (Laura Dern) death has unmoored her, sending her on a downward spiral of sex and drug addiction. Realising she has ruined her marriage and the better part of her life, she embarks on the journey for which she is initially ill-equipped. Her cumbersome backpack, later dubbed “the Monster,” weighs probably twice her body weight – visually, it almost looks like the petite Witherspoon strapped an 18 wheeler onto her back – but is symbolic of the emotional baggage she will be shedding along the way.

    Click here for the complete review

  • This film is recommended.

    “Well, I left my happy home, To see what I could find out, I left my folk and friends, With the aim to clear my mind out.
    -Lyrics from Cat Stevens’ On the Road to Find Out

    Poor Cheryl! Her life is in shambles. The loss of her mother, her crumbling marriage, and a hedonistic lifestyle send her on a journey to self-discovery in Jean-Marc Vallée’s road film, Wild. Based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed (yes, another biography based on real-life events), the film may resemble a travelogue with its endless picturesque vistas and breathtaking panoramas, but center-stage is a strong performance by Reese Witherspoon as our determined and inexperienced hiker.

    Now anyone who saw 127 Hours, The Way, Never Cry Wolf, or Into the Wild knows this territory before even taking a first step. Whenever it’s man vs. nature, you know who holds the upper hand. The predictability of the plot and the ongoing hardships our heroine faces seem unsurmountable, as Cheryl dispenses her inner demons on the road to self-enlightenment. Still one immediately is drawn into her world of doubt, guilt, and despair as she walks the walk for more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. We learn more about this woman through flashbacks and people she encounters along the way.

    Vallée lets her story slowly unfold, although large portions of Ms. Strayed’s life go unexplained (her marriage, her rehab, her underlying purpose for the trip in the first place). These gaps in Nick Hornby’s adapted screenplay leave some room for interpretation by the moviegoer. However, through the many voiceovers used, Cheryl’s thought process is evident to the viewing audience. Added to that is the director’s astute vision which skillfully layers the film with flashbacks and quick cuts to hint at her reasons. This keeps one throughly engaged throughout the film. (The editing by Martin Pensa and an uncredited Vallée is particularly effective in connecting the past with the present.)

    Witherspoon (also one of the movie’s producers) gives a very believable portrayal of a woman trying to come to terms, both physically and emotionally, with the harsh realities of life. The actress acquits herself from her other screen personas and totally invests in her complex character. (Still, even though this is a true story, one wonders the “why” in all this trauma and drama…Why begin this arduous journey to redemption, particularly if one is so ill-prepared and such a novice at the sport? Where is her overall common sense? Certainly there are other means to accomplish this same goal without placing oneself into a life-or-death scenario.) Fine support is given by Thomas Sadowski as her husband, and especially, Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi. Their screen time is minimal but efficiently used to provide some more gravitas to the story.

    Wild is a rather tame but compelling retelling of yet another woman on the road to find out. Ms. Strayed may have found her inner self and her story is in good hands, thanks to a talented director and a committed actress. But moviegoers might still be searching for a bit more insight in their travels to the cinema. GRADE: B

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  • Last year I reviewed the Aussie film Tracks, a film about a girl with a rough background walking across the desert. This week I watched Wild, a film about a girl with a rough background walking the Pacific Crest Trail, a hike that goes from Mexico to Canada. Like with Tracks, Jean-Marc Vallée’s latest film didn’t really inspire me the way these films are supposed to.

    Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) is a wreck after the death of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) and divorces her husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) after he finds that she’s cheated on him. To get her life back on track, Cheryl decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way she meets a fair few people who she relates to, as well as some unsavoury characters who just want to use her.

    While I appreciate the film’s overall message (despite it not doing anything to me), I feel like Vallée’s filmmaking is all over the place here. The structure and editing don’t do much help make sense of the story. Non-linear films can be fun to watch and sometimes they can give backstory to characters, as is the intention with this film. However, the flashbacks that we do see are very fragmented and brief, giving only a cursory insight to Cheryl’s motivations and thus not making her a very endearing character.

    Read the full review and more at http://www.thatothermovieblog.blogspot.com.au

  • Movie Name : WILD (2014)
    Genre : Drama
    Rating : Good 3/5
    There comes a time in your life when you would cast away everything in your life and pack-up your bag and hit the road to search for the truth and identify yourself. WILD, based on a memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” written by Cheryl Strayed gives a profound view on her experiences.
    WILD tells about the story of woman’s journey in past and present during her 1,100 miles hike to heal herself from a consequences of her life.
    Wild is based on a true story of Cheryl Strayed and is directed by Jean Marc Valle whose previous credits includes the Dallas Buyers Club and Young Victoria to name a few. Similar to Dallas Buyers’ Club, Vallee chooses the biography of a common person who changes life with an event. The movie shifts from past to present and vice-versa ( similar to Into the wild) but comes out with somewhat less impacting climax. Script is good but not great and editing could have been crispy. Nevertheless, the cinematography is splendid with astounding art direction. Dialogues are nice. Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern are the reason you should watch the film. The unbreakable bond created in a mother daughter relationship is well-performed by Reese and Laura and that is the highlight of the film. Reese Witherspoon gives an award wining performance playing the protagonist.
    Overall, a likeable movie with strong performances.

  • Quickie Review:

    Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) takes on one of the biggest physical and mental challenges of her life by hiking the over 1700km Pacific Crest trail. As she forges ahead she reflects upon her life tragedies and the mistakes she has made. This hike is her way to self-heal and find some inner peace. Wild is more than just a movie about a hiker. Reese Witherspoon does a great job of showing the strength and the weakness of her character, both emotionally and physically. As the story progresses you more and more root for Cheryl. This is a powerful journey to experience about a woman determined to become a better person.

    Full Review:

    With Oscar buzz and nomination of Reese Witherspoon, it’s fair to say that I had some high expectations for the movie. While for the most part Wild did live up to the praise, there are two small problems that I had with the film.

    Let me start with the obvious, yes Witherspoon gives an Oscar worthy performance. She conveys the transformation of her character from the beginning of the hike to the end, with incredible ease. Some of my favourite parts of the movie was when she is all alone, which says a lot about how well she carried the film (and the monster she called a bag). Before going to see this movie I was concerned how much of a story can we get out of a hike. This is where the non-linear flashbacks of the movie help enrich the motivation behind Cheryl’s hike. In the beginning you don’t really understand why anyone with little hiking experience would take on such a task. However, as she follows the trail, she is reminded of her past that we witness in the flashbacks. In these scenes we see her as a child, her late teens, and her marriage. She is completely different person in each of those phases of her life but Witherspoon pulls off those differences and changes convincingly.

    There are two small issues I have with the movie that I wish was handled a little better. Wild also stars Laura Dern playing the mother of Cheryl. She was a very likeable character in the flashbacks but because of the non-linearity of the timeline her scenes don’t always flow together. Dern acted really well and her character was the emotional catalyst for Cheryl’s story, so it is a pity that I didn’t find her story as impactful as it should’ve been. The other problem I had with the film was that every other person Cheryl meets along the way is shown as a creep. Of course there were one or two of them that were legitimately threatening but that doubt is repeatedly put on people who actually end up being helpful. It as if the filmmakers wanted to us to fear for Cheryl’s safety amongst strangers but it happens so often that it starts to feel forced.

    All in all I really liked Wild mainly because of Witherspoon’s performance. I wish Dern had more to do in the film because of how vital she was to Cheryl’s life, but at least her flashbacks did do its job in developing the motivation behind the actions. I’d recommend giving this movie a shot if you haven’t done so already.

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  • The story had all the elements that could be made into a great movie: an inspiring journey of a woman dealing with a loss, a long walk through the wilderness to seek a fresh start, adventures on the way, encounters with different characters and the beginning of a new chapter in her life. I was interested in seeing how this story translates into a movie.

    Unfortunately the movie did not connect with me. The storytelling was done through flashbacks with insufficient background that would explain the motives or develop the characters. As the story unfolds, tidbits of events from the past that drove Cheryl Strayed to embark on this journey stay unexplained, such as her relationships with her brother and with her husband and how she came to the decision to get off heroin and to prepare for this trek. Also her internal struggles are not quite clear. Moments of strength are followed with moments of weakness, such as when she asks a farmer to drive her for a hot meal and a shower. And some moments simply make no sense, such as when she is on a snowy mountain with skiers zipping by her and she is yelling “Where am I?”

    Reese Witherspoon’s acting was excellent but that could only carry the movie so far when the characters lack substance and the dialog feels contrived. I much preferred the movie “Into the Wild” which was portraying a similar journey.

    The landscape of the trek is beautiful and the experience of a solo walk is worth seeing. But don’t expect a rich story of self-discovery and redemption.

  • “God is a ruthless bitch.”

    A film about someone who decides to go down the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) just to come to terms with herself after living a turbulent life. At first sight it seemed to me that this subject was a bit too feeble for creating an entertaining movie. To some extent that’s true, but at the same time, this was nonetheless a touching and sometimes quite moving film. This notorious 4286 kilometer long footpath, situated in the West of the USA and running along the highest parts of the Sierra Nevada, definitely isn’t for beginners. And yet Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) packed her backpack and without any preparation she started this eerie trip.

    Firstly you can foresee that this could be a fairly monotonous film. One individual all alone in the wild nature. Only occasionally she has brief encounters with people who cross her path. Each with their own back-story and motivation. Actually it’s a bit like “All is lost” with Robert Redford drifting on the wide ocean in his sailboat. He was also completely alone and abandoned. Or recently you could see the expedition members in “Everest” who experienced a worst case scenario. They were (although it was a larger group) totally isolated on this mountaintop. You already know in advance that you’ll witness how this person laboriously drags herself through a desert landscape and other wastelands, meanwhile holding monologues due to the lack of other interlocutors. And the shown images of nature are extraordinarily beautiful.

    What impressed me the most in “Wild” was Reese’s acting. For me, Reese’s alter ego Elle Woods still haunts her. I’ll always associate her with that dumb-looking blonde who started to study law in “Legally Blonde” and afterwards created a stir in court. What I still can remember, are the decisive arguments she came up with and where the evidence was related to make-up and hairstyle related techniques. These trivialities made sure she won the case. And lets not forget her pink outfit for God’s sake and her yapping puppy in matching clothes. And then there were these sorority girlfriends who, when counted together, wouldn’t add up to a decent IQ. I always get the chronic diarrhea when watching such movies. But this stands in sharp contrast to how she performs here. A scarred woman who travels with an overloaded backpack, but also drags along a heavy burden on her shoulders. And she wants to get rid of that once and for all.

    Jean-Marc Vallée, who also directed the brilliant film “Dallas Buyers Club”, managed to create a fascinating mixture of drama and humor. “Wild” is constantly interrupted by flashbacks in which we get to know Cheryl’s mother. A pugnacious person who ,despite setbacks in her life, remains a paragon of positivism. A brilliant interpretation by Laura Dern (better known as the female archaeologist who was being chased by dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”). She clearly passed that attitude to Cheryl. After a self-destructive life of drugs and uncontrolled sex, Cheryl tries to put her life back on track figuratively, by literally walking the PCT path. It’s kind of her personal calvary in this “road movie on foot”. A beautiful film that is alternately touching, painful and funny. A demonstration of endurance, perseverance and willpower. A film in which Reese Witherspoon knows how to keep herself perfectly upright, despite the monstrous-looking backpack that brings her off balance every time. Respect!

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