A young woman embarks on a thousand-mile-plus walk across the desert while flashing back to memories of her mother’s death and her traumatic childhood. Hmmm. Why am I experiencing a sense of deja-vu?
Jean-Marc Valee's Wild actually feels as much like The Way as Tracks, but it is remarkable that two such similar films (Wild and Tracks), based on true accounts, would be released in the same year. This time, the woman (Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon) is walking the Pacific Crest Trail through the western U.S. instead of the Outback of Australia. Without camels, Strayed’s 1000-mile trek seems even more daunting than Robyn Davidson’s 2000 miles in Tracks. And the people Strayed meets along the way are often more frightening than all the tourists and reporters Davidson met.
Wild spends more time on flashbacks than Tracks did, giving us a clearer picture of what drove Strayed to undertake a hike she was not prepared for. We also get a clearer sense of the impact her walk has on her life, including some spiritual reflections. On the other hand, some of the flashbacks were redundant and distracted from the experiences she was having on the trail.
Nevertheless, Wild is a beautiful inspiring film featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by Witherspoon and some excellent supporting work by Laura Dern as Strayed’s mother. I was disappointed in my lack of emotional connection (something I felt more strongly in Tracks and much more so in The Way), but Wild gets a solid ***+. My mug is up.