Ever since Legally Blonde I’ve been a massive Reese Witherspoon fan. She’s a fantastic actress who doesn’t take herself too seriously but can really pull an excellent bit of acting out of the bag when the time calls for it (Walk the Line anyone?). Wild is essentially 2 hours of Witherspoon action, up close and personal on a journey into the challenging landscape of the USA’s West Coast whose ups and downs and struggles and triumphs not only mimic protagonist Cheryl Strayed’
s tragic life but also provide the arena in which she challenges the demons that those struggles thrust upon her. 

It is impossible to watch something like Wild and not talk about Into the Wild, which is pretty much exactly the same storyline only with a much grimmer outcome. The difference for me, and where Wild unfortunately let me down a bit, was the fact that Into the Wild really portrayed how much of a struggle being in the real wilderness, with little to no home comforts, actually is. OK, Chris McCandless took things to the extreme and burned pretty much all of his worldly possessions so of course his journey was going to be that slight bit more difficult but I felt like for Cheryl Strayed everything came too easy. Characters along the way call her ‘The Queen of the PCT’ and with good cause. I remember reading A Walk in the Woods and vividly sympathising with Bill Bryson as he hiked the Appalachian Trail on America’s East Coast and how much of a struggle it was for him to even knock out 200 miles. It was shocking for me how Strayed plowed through this supposedly gruelling trek.

Which I suppose leads on to my next gripe with the movie which was the pacing. I loved the way Wild slowly trickled all the gory details of Strayed’s tragedy along the way and how with every state line crossed another piece of her puzzle was put together for us. I felt like there was still so much of her I had yet to discover and all of a sudden the film ended. And it didn’t feel triumphant like completing a 1000 mile hike should feel. There was no elation, and I feel that this was partly because no true struggle was ever portrayed. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the task at hand here and I am in no way insinuating that in real like Cheryl Strayed didn’t put everything she had left into this, but Wild did not depict the enormity and impossibility of the task effectively or realistically enough for me and thus he payoff left me cold.

This aside, I left Wild feeling like I had just put down a good book and I couldn’t wait to pick it up again and see what would happen next. I really cared about Cheryl Strayed’s story and reasons for doing what she did, and this is mostly due to Reese Witherspoon’s acting. The conviction and the realism she brought to Cheryl was astounding, it was so refreshing to see such a true description of a story told from a female point of view: the constant threat we feel when alone in the presence of men, the almost insane internal monologue that we think only we have and the ability to pack our bags for every eventuality (even when on a 1000 mile hike by foot). I enjoyed the female in-jokes scattered everywhere throughout this movie and a rare example of what the female experience can be like.

I don’t think we will see Witherspoon scoop a statue for Wild but if you enjoy tragedy and triumph storylines combined with the gorgeous backdrop of the great American wilderness set to a quirky, sixties inspired soundtrack, then Wild is for you. But with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (the man responsible for the astounding Dallas Buyers Club) I left the cinema feeling a tad short-changed.