The story of Cheryl Stayed is a true one; a young girl and her brother are raised by their eternally optimistic mother (Laura Dern) who fled an abhorrently violent and abusive relationship. Upon the heart-breaking circumstances of her mothers’ death, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) clutches at anything that blocks the pain of her loss. When she sails into a descending spiral of adulterous casual sex and drug use, her bewildered and exhausted husband files for a divorce. Having lost grip of the person she was “meant to be”, falling pregnant and deciding to have an abortion jolts her back to reality. Cheryl embarks on a journey across the Pacific Coast trail through the desert and mountain ranges, which has healing benefits beyond her wildest expectations.
It’s a gruelling journey on the trail to a woman learning how to love and value herself as she is. The message is so stalwartly, a testament to the strength, determination and potential in humankind, but it’s particularly poignant for the character leading the story to be female. It speaks encouragingly of the importance to take the driving seat in their own lives for women, and knowing how to be proud and unapologetic in their confidence and independence.
It is a beautifully crafted piece of work, collectively shaped by a clearly well-attuned team of individuals. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée with the screenplay written by Nick Hornby, the dark subject matter the film touches on is handled with sensitivity as well as noticeable candour. Adapted from the book written by Cheryl Strayed and co-produced by Witherspoon, with partners Bruna Papandrea and Bill Pholad, there is real dedication to this incredibly inspirational story.
Witherspoon expertly portrays the many complexities of Strayed’s emotional conditions, finding both light and shade in the role. Her warts-and-all approach has yielded a truly moving performance, and accompanied by a sincere and entirely believable supporting cast, the performances are impressive across the board.
One way to sum up Wild is to quote a line from the protagonist’s ongoing internal monologue: “I was going to walk myself back to being the woman my mother thought I was”. Wild channels an undercurrent of concrete wilfulness to move on and through life with grace, grit and appreciation for the people we love. It is a wonderfully uplifting film.
Wild is released nationwide on 16th January 2015.
Watch the trailer for Wild here: