This film is based on a true story from the book by Cheryl Strayed. Reeling from a tragic personal event (vague to prevent a spoiler), Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) unravels into a self-destructive spiral, including having unprotected sex with strangers (which destroyed her marriage) and even shooting up heroin!
In an attempt to turn her life around and find herself, she decides to embark on an odyssey of hiking the 1100 mile Pacific Crest Trail all by herself. This was also self-destructive behavior and probably an unconscious death wish, since there were numerous potentially life threatening and/or psychologically traumatic situations that might have occurred, (many revealed in the film), which would have been much less risky had she been hiking with a partner.
About 2/3 of the film involves the hike, while the other 1/3 consists of flashbacks about her life, spanning from early childhood to the near present, that helps explain how Cheryl’s life became such a disaster.
It is difficult to make a movie about what is primarily an inner journey of self-discovery, but the film does a good job revealing why Cheryl became so self-destructive, although it didn’t do as well in elucidating how she resolved these issues and made herself whole.
The movie has a leisurely pace which worked well since it conveys the arduousness and length of her journey. Reese does a tremendous job and deserves an AW nomination. (Offhand, I can’t think of another performance this year by a female actor that I liked better). Laura Dern is also terrific as Cheryl’s mother (Bobbi).
The scenery is breathtaking and the cinematography by Yves Belanger is first rate. It will work fine as a rental, but the views of the trail are spectacular and worth a trip to the BS.
I really enjoyed the movie and it is in my top 20 for the year.
As the great Lou Reed would say, “take a walk on the wild side” and see it.
Rating – 8.0 – top 20 movie