Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)

The so-real-it-hurts actress Laura Dern is a movie treasure by now: in 'Wild', she's magically effervescent as a '70s mom, splashing in puddles with her small children and bravely facing abandonment, money woes and illness. She's the soul of the film and her cracked smile wrecks you even when her dialogue suggests a not-so-smart target audience. 'I was never in the driver's seat of my life,' she murmurs, one of her many huggable moments.

Unfortunately, Dern – only seen in flashback – isn't the main character in 'Wild'. Reese Witherspoon seizes on the role of Cheryl Strayed, spiritually broken and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail during the summer of 1995, with the talons of a hawk looking for prey  below. Witherspoon is a seizer in general: few actors can be more appealingly uptight, and when the part is 'Election' or 'Legally Blonde', she's perfect.

But the character in 'Wild', taken from Strayed's memoir, feels wrong for her. Cheryl is a heroin addict, a cheater, a promiscuous waitress and a bit of a space case. Witherspoon can't do any of these things persuasively, but she can fume at faulty camping equipment or fumble with her gigantic backpack like a slapstick pro. Her director, Jean-Marc Vallée ('Dallas Buyers Club'), pushes her towards thoughtfulness, yet his atmospheric style runs counter to the obvious material. There are highly symbolic mountains to climb, highly symbolic streams to cross.

'Wild' works considerably better as a gender drama, as Cheryl comes into contact with different men on the trail, some helpful, others potentially predatory. Each time, her guard rises and you can actually see a person struggling with unhealthy instincts. In other scenes, a hippyish scent of solidarity is evoked (Jerry Garcia's August death is commemorated). But it'll take more than a Bob Marley t-shirt for us to buy the authenticity of this particular hiker, epiphany-bound though she may be.


Release details

Release date:
Friday January 16 2015
115 mins

Cast and crew

Jean-Marc Vallée
Nick Hornby
Reese Witherspoon
Gaby Hoffmann
Laura Dern

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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I know it's not a recent film, but I only just watched it thanks to Netflix. I have always quite liked Reese Witherspoon but it was a great pleasure to see her in a deeper, less predictable film. We follow her emotional and physical journey through the Pacific Trail. After losing her Mum and herself, she decides it is the last attempt to get back to a life that is not self-inflicted and stop being toxic to herself. Obviously the landscapes, light and wilderness are amazingly beautiful. All the characters are well-cast (her ex husband, her Mum, people she meets) but sometimes a bit cliche, even if it is a true story, which makes the movie even more emotional. Witherspoon is great in character, we follow her along as she goes whilst hoping for a happy ending after all the tense moments she goes through. Through the flash-backs, we understand what brought her there and why she chose to do that. The music is well chosen (Paul Simon, if you hear me). The purists would say the book is much better, so I will read it, but let's keep in mind Wild is a great movie : raw and emotionally charged. 


I really enjoyed this film, its great to watch a film with an original story that you can't predict, with great acting and incredible scenery to boot. Reece Witherspoon plays a troubled character who is neck deep in grief, drug addiction and a lack of self worth. She is hoping to find herself and her strength again by going on an insane 3 month hike. There are some tense moments when she is left incredibly vulnerable and I was worried for her safety but it was all part of her 'journey'. The structure of the film means that the emotion builds throughout the film as you learn more about the lead character and her story. Made me want to get walking. 

Although recent films have been more about sequels than a story, this movie DOES have it all - a story, great acting, some thinking of your own and wonderful imagery. And for travellers, plenty to recognise. Be prepared for some inspiration for your next travels. My boyfriend planned to hike 4,000 miles from Alaska to Mexico straight after watching this movie…