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Review: Wild (2014)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée | 115 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae, Michiel Huisman, W. Earl Brown, Gaby Hoffmann, Kevin Rankin, Brian Van Holt, Cliff De Young, Mo McRae, Will Cuddy, Leigh Parker, Nick Eversman, Ray Buckley ,

“You can always give up” murmurs through Cheryl Strayed’s head. The little blonde makes her first meters on the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. Her hiking backpack is far too heavy, but the burden of her troubled life weighs much harder on her shoulders. Thus begins “Wild”, the true biography “Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found”, filmed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Cheryl’s ex Paul no longer knows how to help her. She is no longer the woman he met when they got married. Reckless adultery and its dormant hard drug use has driven a wedge into the once-happy life they led together. Cheryl’s mom, Bobbi, is her best friend and compass in life. The final blow comes when she is diagnosed with cancer.

Cheryl and her brother visit the hospital daily, but they arrive too late on that particular day. Without being met beforehand by the nurses, Cheryl walks into the room and finds Bobbi lifeless. She is already prepared to serve as a donor. Then something snaps at Cheryl. She decides she wants to honor her mother by “walking back” to the woman who was once so lovingly raised by Bobbi to be a responsible person. With warm but also sharp memories playing in her mind, Strayed embarks on an immense and exhausting journey of 1100 miles. In total solitude. On the way to himself.

When seeing the trailer and movie poster, many people might think that “Wild” is the female equivalent of “Into The Wild”. However, this road movie is of a different kind. Filmmaker is no stranger to raw stories. His Oscar-winning “Dallas Buyers Club” has received worldwide acclaim and newcomer “Wild” has also been critically acclaimed and amply nominated at the Academy Awards, the Baftas and Golden Globes.

Making a compelling about a solo walk of 1100 miles (about 1770 km) with in fact only one lead actress is not easy, but Vallée has certainly managed to tell Strayed’s moving, strong and poignant story. Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde”) is not inferior to his talent. Her acting is almost hallucinatory, which is underlined with soundscapes and dreamy internal monologues. Witherspoon is portrayed as a tough aunt while the real Cheryl Strayed was immersed in self-pity. The character of mother Bobbi, played by Laura Dern (‘Jurassic Park’), unfortunately does not get enough room to develop in these 115 minutes, but the warm mother love and the impact she has on her daughter’s life is well illustrated.

“Wild” is a feast for the eyes. You will be cinematographically (again the work of Yves Bélanger) very spoiled with the immeasurable and desolate beauty of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

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