Sunday, 18 January 2015

Wild Review

Based on yet another memoir, Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed (Oscar nominated Reese Witherspoon), a woman who decides to desert her past life by packing one hell of a big bag and trekking 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington border. Relying on nothing but a solid pair of walking boots, the occasional help of total strangers and fellow hikers, and a head full of memories spurring her forwards and away from the dubious decisions of her past, Strayed heads out on her epic solitary journey. Frequent flashbacks fill in the blanks and detail the life that lead her to take on this mammoth walk. Her relationship with her mother (also Oscar nominated Laura Dern) and her descent into heroin addiction and unsatisfying promiscuity all figure in this life affirming tale of getting your life back on track by taking it into your own hands.

Compared to some of the other Oscar contenders that are based on memoirs and are fighting for attention in the 2015 awards season, Wild feels like a slight story with a heroine its often hard to root for. Stephen Hawking has his tragic illness, Vera Brittain has World War I to contend with and Chris Kyle had Iraqi insurgents and PTSD to combat. On the other hand, Strayed loves and loses her mother, makes some questionable life choices and then sets out on an epic walk. Even the hardships she endures seem underplayed; her addiction to heroin is glossed over and her recovery seems to take a single scene.

To his credit, perhaps director Jean-Marc Valee (Dallas Buyers Club) deliberately underplays this one woman struggle to find herself out in the Wild. The score is never rousing and the script never really throws unnecessary elements in to spice up the drama. Even Witherspoon never really gets to cut loose in her performance, making the whole film slightly subdued. There are some touching quieter moments, particularly in one scene where Strayed bonds with another female hiker and the editing is wonderfully dreamlike as thoughts invade Strayed's memory muddled mind. However, the landscapes never quite feel used to their full advantage, meaning Wild is nowhere near as awe inspiring as it should be.

Strayed's story never hits its potential emotional highs and lows. Instead of being wild, it more often withers.

Watch the trailer:

More awards-bait film reviews from I Love That Film:

Whiplash Review

Testament of Youth Review

The Theory of Everything Review

Into the Woods Review

American Sniper Review

Unbroken Review

And more on awards season:

Golden Globes Gambling

Top 10 Best True Stories of 2014

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