Hear Me Roar
In a world where everyone is connected, Wild shows us that to find yourself, you must first find isolation
Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)—a 4.3 km long hiking trail that goes through Califronia, Oregon, and Washington State—all by herself after a series of events forced her to reexamine her life.
In a sleepy town near the Mojave Desert, Strayed begins her journey struggling to put on a backpack. Through flashbacks, we find out that Strayed used to be someone who held promise. But after her mother’s death, her life went on a downward spiral. The grief forced Strayed to look for pleasure—cheating on her husband and sleeping with strange men in sketchy hotels and dark alleys.
Her search for instant pleasure led to her addiction to heroin. Her husband tries to salvage what is left of her, but that was it for their marriage. They get divorced, but not before finding out she got pregnant from one of her random encounters.
It was implied that Strayed had an abortion before setting out into the wild.
While on the trail, she chronicles her struggles with nature, meeting different people along the way, who enrich and strengthen her resolve to finish what she started.
A man’s world
Dealing with the pain from her mother’s death, we see that Strayed’s problems are somewhat rooted in her relationship with men. Her father used to beat up her mother, sometimes even threatening a young Strayed with a “knuckle sandwich.”
The feminist undertone of the film, however, does not distract the viewer from its depiction of an all too human conflict—falling in a pit of despair after making wrong choices in life.
The trail acts as a scenic backdrop to Strayed despair. Witherspoon churns out an impressive performance showing us that while Strayed is a strong woman for hiking the PCT, she is still vulnerable.
The first time Strayed interacted with a guy during the hike, she found a gun in his truck. The next man she would meet was another hiker who was almost too enthusiastic with meeting a woman.
Next was a ranger who wanted to have dinner with her plus three guys who were also hikers (she has drinks with them, and then she pukes in the middle of the night after feeling dizzy. It is entirely cumbersome to bring roofies on a hiking trip, but you never know).
All of them turned out to be harmless, but the tension was palpable.
The only real threat came from two lost hunters brandishing bow guns. They comment on her figure, and one even watches her change clothes. But it was as if the director was artificially creating tension to distract viewers from the fact that nothing really happens.
Strayed just walks a thousand miles, brooding about her past. Unimagined conflicts actually lie in her flashbacks.
But Strayed’s journey to self-discovery should not be set aside, especially with the way Witherspoon injects realism into her portrayal.
As the film draws to a close, it becomes clear that its emotional zenith has already passed and nothing more will happen. To quote T.S. Eliot, it ends “not with a bang but a whimper.” But it’s not as chilling.
It seems that the only thing wild about this movie is Strayed’s past.
Fans of Witherspoon will enjoy the film. It is an announcement that Witherspoon is back, and is serious about it. No more love triangles for her.
Catch the critically-acclaimed Wild in local cinemas on February 4.