Wild is a film that got lost

by Kristina Aiad-Toss

From the director of Dallas Buyers Club, comes Wild, a disappointment of a film that aspires to be inspirational with a substandard storyline. This movie follows the ironically named Cheryl Strayed, who goes onto a one thousand mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail, in order to find herself after being hurt by major life events. Although the story seems like a promising source of insight, the film fails to show any dominant themes of soul searching with the dry plot line and lacking screenplay. The first scene where Sheryl throws her boots off a cliff is the most captivating part in the entire film, grabbing the audience’s attention. However, like the boots, the film goes downhill from that point. While the scenery and visuals are marvelous, the plot was lost in the typical sex, drugs, sentimental loss, and ego trip themes that audiences have come to know and hate.

Directed by
Jean-Marc Vallée
Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann
Release Date
19 December 2014
Kristina’s Grade: C+

The movie focuses on the negative aspects of the journey, and renders the self-transformative experience as unimportant. From the onset, Cheryl possesses no hiking expertise and is poorly prepared for her hike, but the only life threatening hardship she endures is an encounter with a snake on the path. Overall, the hike is rather boring and uneventful, eliciting boredom and disinterest. The brief meetings with the other hikers are so superficial and non consequential, that they could have been absent from the plot with no loss of content. In addition, her connections with others along the road seem out of place and random in the story. Throughout her journey, the human contact she experience lacks any sort of real contribution to the plot. Even the dialogue was lacking, devoid of any depth or real impact on the audience.

This movie is a literal wandering through the wilderness, with no emotional roller coaster, no staggering hardships, and no adventurous or interesting aspects. The flashbacks into Sheryl’s past give a glimpse of her life before the hike, and move in a natural fashion as if she was recalling them. The incorporation of aspects of her previous life and her life now in the wilderness provided an excellent way to organize the film and highlighted excellent cinematography. From a visual perspective, there are some truly beautiful moments in this film.
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Nevertheless, the scenes chosen to show from her past fail to illustrate how she ended up where she was. These subplot creations appear disjointed with the viewers left confused at the jumbled mess before them. Although Reese Witherspoon has done exceedingly well portraying other characters, her acting as Sheryl Strayed in Wild was not very strong or convincing. The role of Cheryl was more suited for someone with a better range than Witherspoon, who fails to show the struggles that her character experienced. Witherspoon does not divulge deeply enough into the role of a drug addict suffering from loss who embarks on a harsh hike. Her performance is not strong enough to convey her character to the audience for a film with such heavy subject matter.

Outside Witherspoon, the supporting cast features Gabby Hoffman and Laura Dern and both of which give spectacular performances. The major downfall in Wild is that the aim of the plot is lacking and vague. The reasons why she hiked, as well as what she hopes to achieve from the journey, are very ambiguous. Along with this obscureness, the portrayal of Sheryl’s mental state during the hike does not correlate well to her past. Ultimately, the entire movie—the main character, the hike, the flashbacks, and the encounters between people—do not develop into a unified nature, and instead appear disorganized in an unclear plot lacking the enormity of the story.