Cheryl Strayed and her hiking partner, “The Monster”
Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), a woman who hiked the 1100 mile Pacific Coast Trail, by herself. As the movie opens her friends are trying to do that thing where you try to be both supporting and gently suggesting you might be going off the deep end. But Cheryl Strayed is determined to launch herself on the trek.
As she begins her journey, it’s immediately obvious that she has no idea what she’s getting into and is woefully unprepared (or is it over prepared) to do such strenuous hiking. But what’s not obvious is why she’s doing this to herself. You find out pretty quick that she’s recently divorced. But as she struggles through the desert heat, she has lots of time to ponder over her life and predicament and we get a glimpses through Cheryl’s flashbacks, mutterings to herself, and, well, visions.
It’s easy to imagine bad things happening to a single woman alone hiking through the desert, especially one who’s struggling with the task. And as the miles start to pile up, the trail seems to be getting more and more dangerous, her mental state becomes more and more tenuous, and the landscape becomes more and more surreal.
It’s a gut wrenching story that unfolds. The real plot unfolds in the flashbacks, many revolving around her relationship with her mother played by Laura Dern. And although she doesn’t get that much screen time, it’s a crucial role and I think it might be my favorite Laura Dern role ever.
Reese Whitherspoon has turned in an Oscar worthy performance on this one. I highly recommend it but prepare yourself for a gut wrenching experience.