All of us, at one point or another, have wanted to get away from it all—to clear our heads, to escape our lives, maybe even to run away from something we did or said or didn’t do or say. Who hasn’t wanted to push the reset button on their lives at least once? Of all the things that haunt the human brain, perhaps none are as soul-crushing as regret, for as powerful and smart as we humans are, the one thing we cannot and will never be able to do is go back in time. So, sometimes, the desire to run, far and fast, is palpable. But very few of us has ever had the courage or the ability to actually go through with it. To actually take that journey—leaving it all behind, confronting your demons, face-to-face, not knowing where or who you will be when you feel you are finished running—what a rare and exceptionally beautiful story that would be.
Which is exactly what Wild is.
Wild, the new movie from director Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed last year’s Best Picture-Oscar-nominated surprise hit Dallas Buyers Club, is based on the memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, who is also a co-screenwriter on Wild, along with Nick Hornby. Reese Witherspoon stars as Strayed, who hiked 1,100 miles alone along the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada, after a painful divorce and the sudden death of her mother. It doesn’t give too much away to reveal those points here, because it is clear early on that this character is trying to escape something and the meat, heart and meaning of this movie doesn’t lie in the details of the plot but in—forgive the cheesiness—traveling each step with her on her journey. How this movie manages to avoid falling into sentimental holes and cliché traps is beyond me, which I credit entirely to Hornby and Strayed herself for staying true to the reality of her trek and not being tempted by the opportunities to turn moments into melodrama. Instead, Wild is a straightforward, honest, real and oftentimes brutally insightful film about one woman’s search for personal understanding and redemption. It is powerful, moving, emotional, beautiful, touching, raw and inspiring. If you’ve lost your faith in movies, this one just might bring it back again.
Reese Witherspoon gives the best performance of her career, and that’s saying something, considering how much I adore Election. If she hadn’t won for Walk the Line, I’d think she was a slam-dunk to win the Best Actress Oscar here. She has never been more perfectly cast and she has never been as relatable, as easy to watch, as easy to root for or as believable. She also produced Wild, so this film is truly to her credit, and all the power to her. Laura Dern also deserves a mention for a worthwhile supporting performance because, frankly, Laura Dern never gets enough credit.
There’s no other way to say it: go see Wild.