The reason Wild works so well onscreen isn’t just the ferocious performance of it’s lead actress but, more notably, the way director Jean-Marc Vallée sets up his scenes to evoke a sense of loss based on memories and a deep yearning of the past. Filtered through a rich soundtrack (one of Vallée’s forte, considering the soundtrack cost for his remarkable family drama C.R.A.Z.Y. was more than the films budget) Wild cements his reputation as an actor’s director.

Talking about the film in terms of script and narrative is a disservice because there is very little that actually happens in it. The tale is literally encapsulated by it’s description in the synopsis  – the story of a woman who goes on a 3 month, 1000 mile hike to find herself. There is where the film is unconventionally fresh, giving us insight and perspective into how the mind of a person in this situation would work, from the thoughts that spring up under such circumstances, the confrontation with things (and people) you fear, but most of all, your acceptance of who you are being based on whatever choices you made (both good and bad).

Whiterspoon here demonstrates abject confidence. Her turn as Cheryl Strayed is rugged and raw. In much the same way that he did with Matthew Mcconaughey in last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, the director extracts a brave, physical performance from Whiterspoon as well. By the end of it we actually believe that she’s gained both the wisdom and closure she was yearning for at journey’s start. At numerous points in the film other characters comment on the unusualness of hiking solo on such a long trail, especially for a lone female and Cheryl’s determination, courage and endurance are all put to the test. Like the love child of Into the Wild and 127 Hours, the journey and it’s eventually exorcising of personal demons is what we bare witness to and Witherspoon shines by giving a performance from the gut.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com