“There are sentences that I wrote that I can see written on her face,” says Cheryl Strayed, author of the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail talking about Reese Witherspoon’s performance in the movie WILD, based on Strayed’s book. Compliments do not often come this way from authors but when you have Witherspoon in a role she is incredibly passionate about in a movie that is superbly made you can expect these compliments to flow. WILD is out Thursday 22nd January in Australia thanks to 20th Century Fox Australia, it is rated MA15+ and runs for 115mins.




Strayed’s book is a heartbreaking redemption and discovery tale. It is also a masterpiece, I first heard about it when I heard Witherspoon was circling the project. I got a copy sent to me by the generous publishers and read it on my three week holiday to Bali. I was reading this in the afternoons while walking up to 20kms in 40 degree heat during the day, I felt very comfortable knowing Strayed faced these immediate environmental similarities. But nothing could prepare me for what this book was really about. A very harrowing deep pain filled self extraction from the wrong path and being the wrong person.

Strayed lost her mother to cancer, her mother was her universe, and she loathed herself and the world after this because she discovered she had no control. In her loathing she self destructed, while married she also slept with anything with a pulse, took drugs which led to heroine, and spiraled to the point of pending overdose due at any moment. Her husband still loved her but could no longer be with her. Then one day in a general store she sees a book about the PCT – the Pacific Coast Trail, a U.S.hiking trail that goes from Mexico to Canada, and on a complete insane, random, without-thought whim decides to walk it. Without any experience or knowledge, she sets out to walk over a 1000 miles. This is that journey of her facing her demons in another universe.


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Witherspoon delivers her career defining performance in WILD, it is much more gritty than her earlier work and more personal. She is truly alone in this role and she goes way out of her comfort zone displaying nudity, having sex scenes, injecting heroin and sleeping with frogs. I could not be more impressed seeing her stripped bare without make-up and roughing it, there was no artificiality present, just skin and bones, and the giant back pack, “Monster,” accompanying her. It was a film that had a lot of dialogue but more so, on the trail, a monologue, so her acting through facials gestures and winces is astonishing and stems from her vast experience and comfort in front of the camera. It is a harrowing story and she manages to capture it all in this nuanced delivery, the only scene I thought could have been better was chasing the fox in the snow, in the book she is bellowing out but in this one scene it was less than that, Witherspoon probably read the scene differently to me or Nick Horny, the adapted screenplay writer, may have interpreted it differently

When I read the book I was skeptical they could pull this off as a movie, there is so much history interspersed and so much story to it. How does one tell the most horrendous years of a life in under two hours? With smoothly transitioned flashbacks, superb characters and actors and with the flashbacks being moments in Strayed’s mind as she walks, relieves and cleanses her soul.


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While her giant backpack, Monster, was a real thing packed with anything she thought she would need, a 60kg monstrosity she could barely lift, this also significantly represented the internal baggage of her life, as she went on it got lighter, as did the weighing down of her old, debaucherous and destroyed self. As was the fox, her spirit guide, a manifestation to represent her mother, a support from the very nature-loving woman with all the love for the universe, a role superbly played that made me incredibly happy to see Laura Dern back onscreen. Always loved the lady.

There is also some great supporting actors along the track and it was great to see Thomas Sadoski fresh from THE NEWSROOM as the supporting but betrayed husband, would like to see more of him in movies.




The sad part of the movie is it really cannot fit everything from the book in, the ant scene is gone, getting to know the other hikers is pretty much gone, you meet them, but you don’t run into them again. This was something I missed, I felt these characters were integral to Chery’s recovery with humanity and I genuinely liked a lot of them, their time was just too brief. They also changed the ranger scenes, and we only got glimpses of the harrowing family life pre-leaving the father. We really did not see Cheryl’s abundant control issues with looking after her mum, I felt these controlling issues were why Cheryl bottomed out so much, a person in complete control of everything lost all control with the passing of her mother.

I could really go on and on about the items from the book I wanted more of but like I said earlier, you just can’t fit it all in and for a screenplay I do not think one could have been written any better, it fit in all the key elements and the direction by Jean-Marc Vallée (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, C.R.A.Z.Y.) was just sublime. Accompanying everything else is award worthy cinematography from Yves Bélanger, who also filmed DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB – they used a similar style, incredibly limited crew, mostly hand held camera and natural lighting where possible.

If you love nature films, a redemption movie, a beautiful story and amazing cinematography – watch this movie, and be sure to keep your eye out for the lady who drops her off at the very start – that actually is the Cheryl.

“If your Nerve, deny you – Go above your Nerve – EMILY DICKINSON” and Chery Strayed.


4 and a Half Pops



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