Why Every Traveler Needs To Go See “Wild”

Wild is a movie that has recently garnered a lot of critical acclaim.

Facebook Wild Movie
Facebook/Wild Movie

Reese Witherspoon puts in a fantastic, heart-wrenching performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who has forced herself into hiking the Pacific Crest trail from New Mexico to the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon and Washington, as a means of reworking her life, which had taken an extremely downward spiral. The film, based on the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail follows Strayed on her extensive journey of the continental United States, showing flashbacks at various intervals throughout of her life, as she deals with the struggles of addiction, infidelity, marriage, death, and a hat full of other issues, eventually resulting in her leaving to take on the PCT.

Obviously the movie is highlighted by the performances of Witherspoon and Laura Dern (playing Strayed’s mother), the vibrant direction of Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), and the brilliant soundtrack that appropriately outlines the various emotions and themes playing out in the film using the songs of classic artists such as Simon & Garfunkel, Wings, and Bruce Springsteen. However, beneath all of this, the fantastic, inventive imagery, and the intense yet relatable struggles in the life of Strayed, is the underlying theme of active travel and the necessity to take the leap into the unknown.

Strayed enters one of the world’s most notorious trails, without any hiking experience. Her first few days on her journey, she is alone, in the middle of the New Mexico desert, without the proper supplies. As she slowly moves through the desert day after day, she repeats her mantra of “you can quit at any time”. She doubts herself with every step she takes. Yet, by the end of the film she looks out from atop the Bridge of the Gods having conquered one of the world’s most difficult hikes in the middle of one of its most difficult snowy seasons.

Facebook Wild Movie poster
Facebook/Wild Movie

Yes, Strayed was acting on the added emotions resulting from the recent struggles she had to endure that had been accumulating since her childhood. I won’t go into any of this, so I don’t spoil the film, but regardless she has been dealt a pretty tough hand, which acts to push her along the first few days without turning back. Yet the film does not merely serve as a character study of Cheryl Strayed. It reveals excellently the inner workings of an extremely round female character to its audience, but one of the major alms given to the audience is the idea that you don’t need the motivation of Strayed to embark on a journey of her magnitude. All you need is a destination, boots that fit, and the right type of fuel for your stove.

A major turning point comes when Strayed runs out of food in the middle of nowhere on the trail in New Mexico. She reaches a literal fork in the road in front of her and elects to turn back towards civilization rather than continue on the trail. As the sun begins to set, she comes across a man working alone in a field. The man agrees to help her and despite initial inhibitions about getting in a truck in the middle of the desert with a grizzly looking man, she gets in and ends up getting the help she needs and the added motivation to return to her journey.

This moment in the film offers two valuable insights and turning points for both the viewer and Strayed. First, Strayed is allowed to finally drop her inhibitions and fears that she had been carrying throughout the hike and is thus rewarded for doing so. After this point in the film, she no longer wakes up in the middle of her tent afraid that something is outside stalking her. By putting a degree of faith into the unknown as represented by the man who feeds, cleans, and provides supplies for her, Strayed is able to restart on her journey with an added air of confidence that is then built on in further situations throughout the film. The second aspect of this film is offered through the added insight of the life of the worker. In a conversation in which the man helping Strayed asks her if she ever thinks about quitting. He reveals his own past of quitting, repetition, and eventual settling into his life with his current wife out in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Despite his obvious happiness and degree of satisfaction, his life serves as a foil to the journey of Strayed. The realization to have to break from the monotony of settling into a routine or taking the easy option to maintain a level of surface happiness is a difficult one to make, but re-motivates Strayed to push on through the trail and into a new way of life.

In my opinion Wild is one of the better movies made this year because of the performances given and the images created by the director in conveying the message of the film and will undoubtedly be nominated for at least a few major awards. However, the reason why I think it necessary for people to see is because of its message, of stepping forth into the unknown. It is not a new or innovative message, but what makes Wild stand out is the relatable and beautiful way this message is able to be conveyed through the light of the life of its strong, female protagonist Cheryl Strayed. Go see this movie not because you want to see why Reese Witherspoon is winning an Oscar this year or because she is naked in it a lot, but because it will make you realize that you need to get out of your life, if not just for a week and take a trip that will reaffirm and rearrange your status as an individual.

Evan Molineux

Evan's favorite country in the world is Canada. His travel style is to keep it real, relaxed, and experience something dangerous now and then. Ask him what he loves to do and he'll say "roll with nature's flow." You'll never find Evan without a disposable camera, lip balm, and yoga pants, they're must-haves no matter what he goes.

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