I’d pretty much given up on the idea of ever seeing this one on the big screen, because of its all too brief appearance at the local multiplexes – but if ever a subject was designed for cinema viewing, Wild, with its magnificent vistas of mountains and prairies, is surely the one. So thank goodness for the FilmHouse, Edinburgh, a superb little independent that shows smaller ‘art house’ movies long after they’ve moved on from bigger venues. (If you’re ever in Edinburgh, do seek it out. It’s an object lesson in how to run an indie cinema.)
Wild is based on the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed (not so much a name as a job description) who after the death of her beloved mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern) has slipped into a life of heroin addiction and infidelity. Newly divorced from her long-suffering husband, Paul (Thomas Sadoski) she decides she needs to spend a little time on her own and rashly sets out to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, a distance of over one thousand miles. (It should perhaps be pointed out that Strayed had no previous experience of hiking, just a burning desire to complete the self-imposed task.) What follows is an account of her travels and the people she meets en route, cleverly intercut with flashbacks to earlier memories. Ably directed by Jean Marc Valleé, this is an engaging story with some fine location photography and a solid performance from Reece Witherpoon, who manages to convincingly play Strayed at all stages of her life (including, annoyingly, her college years.) If the overall effect is less powerful than say Into The Wild, a film with which it will inevitably be compared, it’s nonetheless very watchable and its only slightly marred by an ending that wanders rather too deeply into fridge magnet territory.
In what has becomes a popular trope amongst film makers, a sequence of photographs over the end credits show the real Cheryl Strayed and demonstrate how accurately Valleé and his crew reconstructed events.