Written by Yosra Osman

Arts

A Walk on the Wild Side

Reese Witherspoon’s Wild isn’t the up-hill trek you might expect, says Yosra Osman.

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Oscar hopeful Reese Witherspoon in Wild.

I wasn’t sure how wild I would be about Wild – my preconceptions from a quick peek of the trailer before the film were, in hindsight, probably unfair. I was expecting a horrible Eat Pray Love-style ‘find yourself’ drama, the plot being that Reese Witherspoon walks around for a long time and I’m bored out of my mind by the end.

Thankfully, there’s a bit more to it. I forgot the film is directed by Dallas Buyers Club‘s Jean Marc Vallée, who would probably make a story more interesting than one about privileged people moaning about life before gallivanting off to foreign lands so they can eat lots of food.

Sure, not all that much happens in Wild, but Vallée manages to keep you interested. Reese Witherspoon plays a real-life figure, Cheryl Strayed, who walked the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail after a self-destructive episode following the death of her mother.

Adapted by Nick Hornby from Strayed’s memoirs, Wild uses the overarching journey to cover ideas of redemption, liberation and empowerment, but it’s subtle enough not to come across as self-indulgent.

Reese Witherspoon carries the film, but with more ease than the strain of her ludicrously heavy backpack. She is stubborn and determined, but also incredibly vulnerable. Much is made of the fact that Cheryl is one of very few female hikers to walk the Pacific Crest Trail (her male counterparts are presented as more threatening than the erratic weather or menacing wildlife), but what works is that the real vulnerability of Witherspoon’s character is due to her own needs, her own problems. Masculine intrusion is limited throughout Cheryl’s story – a refreshing change in this sort of drama.

Among other big Oscar contenders, Wild’s received less attention than the male-focused films. Whether this is due to a lack of interest in stories featuring female protagonists is unclear – and another debate entirely.

It’s an absorbing piece of cinema and a pleasant surprise. It’s well-made, with beautiful landscapes and a seamless soundtrack featuring some brilliant tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Portishead.

Wild is gritty, compelling and will make sure you feel every blister and every scar – without being a particularly painful experience. Catch it while you can.

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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions