There’s something enchanting and moving about the notion of someone leaving behind a materialistic life for a more natural, organic existence – translating so well onto the screen in the likes of Into the Wild and Tracks. Now comes Jean-Marc Vallée’s attempt with Wild; however the man who brought us the universally acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club last year has struggled to make quite the same impression this time around.
Reece Witherspoon plays Cheryl, who, after a tumultuous break-up with her ex-partner, decides to flee society, and take on a 1,100 mile hike across the unforgiving landscape of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which takes her from the Californian desert, all the way up to Oregon. This trip transports her away from the challenges of life – where she also looks back over a difficult upbringing with an abusive father and ailing mother (Laura Dern), to seek a new purpose – to complete this arduous, monumental adventure – all by herself.
Though the premise is more akin to the likes of Into the Woods, regrettably the content shares more of a resemblance to that of Eat Pray Love – being a film that, despite the positives that do exist, is let down by the more cliched, mawkish nature of the narrative. It’s especially a shame given that Nick Hornby is on screenwriting duties, though anybody who saw A Long Way Down – based on his novel – will appreciate that his track record is hardly unblemished. It’s the flashbacks in particular that are of the biggest detriment to proceedings; so unsubtle in their conviction that they leave nothing to our imagination. Thankfully, however, a stunning lead turn from Witherspoon saves this picture – as she plays the role with such sincerity, beguile and grace throughout, whilst portraying such a strong-willed, relatable protagonist.
The themes are generally identifiable for anybody, as we explore the notion of getting away from everything, which can resonate with us all. We often dream about just leaving life behind for a while and getting in touch with not only nature, but ourselves; particularly after a personal tragedy. However when suffering from a break-up, for most of us, we tend to just buy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, put on our pyjamas and cry ourselves to sleep while watching our favourite-worst-movies. Going on an obscene hike through the desert isn’t always what springs to mind.