HOLLYWOOD—Self-discovery films are not at the highest on my radar; it’s kind of a portrait of real life that many of us have seen time and time again. The cross-country drama “Wild” starring Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon, is such a riveting piece of cinema, it’s difficult to take your eyes off of our protagonist.
Reese stars as Cheryl Strayed, who finds herself on a journey of self-discovery after the death of her mother, a crumbling marriage and years of reckless behavior. The film is adapted from Strayed’s memoir, which is always a tricky task to attempt to accomplish; there are those who will always praise the source material and those who will always criticize the interpretation of the work. Hence, see the 2013 movie “Gone Girl.”
It’s a brutal character transformation for Witherspoon, who digs quite deep as an actress to bring a level of torture, likability and strength to a character who is so flawed that we see a bit of ourselves in her.
The death of a loved one can deliver a surmountable level of grief to a person, which director Jean-Marc Vallee, who was responsible for 2013’s rousing “Dallas Buyers Club,” manages to capture raw emotion with the camera, with such poise and ease it directly pierces through the viewer. You feel what Cheryl does, her pain becomes your pain, and her frustration is your frustration, her physical anguish you want to transmit onto yourself.
Witherspoon manages to deliver some of her finest work to date in my opinion. It’s raw, risky and no easy task to tackle a complex character and material, without trepidation. We’re seeing an actress shine at her best, and having such a level of strength from her co-star Laura Dern strengthens the overall impact the film has on its viewer.
Now imagine yourself taking a nearly thousand mile journey of the Pacific Crest Trail. I don’t think I could do it, and to acknowledge a woman doing something that most men would never consider doing is honorable.
The movie not only highlights the magnitude of a journey some of us take to re-discover ourselves, it highlights the relationship a parent can have with a child. In this case, mother and daughter; a bond so strong that even in death, her mother’s love, wisdom and heart finds a way to pierce through a troubled soul asking to be rescued.
“Wild” is not just about finding yourself; it’s about acknowledging the impact a person can have on someone’s life even in the midst of tragedy.