Disclaimer: I've never had any patience for Reese Witherspoon – let’s just say that Legally Blonde left a bitter after-taste in my mouth that a spoonful of sugar can’t even help go down (sorry Julie)! But, after hearing about the high acclaim of her latest venture, Wild, I was mildly excited to give her another go.
Let’s get one thing straight – Wild is anything but an easy film to watch. At its core, it’s about a woman that has gotten completely lost, both physically and figuratively. In an attempt to reboot her downward spiraling life, she decides to undertake an unnecessarily long hike across, which seems like, the biggest part of the USA. Whilst I must admit, the logic of this trip still doesn't make much sense to me, the journey itself is a wonderful thing to experience.
One of the aspects that I really admire was how the film portrayed the loneliness and even awkwardness of a women completely alone in the wilderness, and mostly inept for the monstrous challenge that awaits her. Most of the film consists of beautifully quiet scenes, involving Witherspoon battling both the elements and her inner demons. Whilst this is probably something that’s been done, I have to admit, I haven’t quite seen it done quite like this before. Whilst Witherspoon’s encounters with other humans during her journey are functional as types of progressive waypoints, the film’s best moments are definitely when Witherspoon is by herself. This is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée going to admirable lengths to ensure these scenes are as poignant as can be.
"Whilst Witherspoon’s encounters with other humans during her journey are functional as types of progressive waypoints, the film’s best moments are definitely when Witherspoon is by herself."
Flashback scenes to the events that led to Witherspoon’s unorthodox journey are a welcome change of scenery and also helps to colour in some of the questions that get raised during Witherspoon’s unnaturally long hike (did I mention I think this hike is abnormally long?). These scenes also benefit from strong performances by supporting cast members, helping the viewer understand even more about the protagonist and the relationships that defined her life.
And yes, I have to admit, the film would have been nothing without Witherspoon’s powerful performance, which involves a wide range of emotional highs and lows, all coming over as totally believable. It’s an admirably vulnerable performance that allows the viewer to connect with the protagonist on a very intimate level. Although Witherspoon’s state of mind is quite desperate during the events the film depicts, I’m sure anyone that watches the film will be able to identify with some of the insecurities that she faces. But, in saying that, there are also glimpses of amazing strength portrayed here and it’s in these rare moments that you really connect with this troubled women (yes, even if you’re a dude. dude).
Much like its protagonist, the film is not in any particular hurry to go anywhere and thanks to this, the film has a weirdly comforting tempo. This gives the viewer more than enough time to appreciate the stillness of the surroundings, but at the same time, delve deeper into Witherspoon’s inner-loudness.
All in all, Wild is an amazing return to form for its main actress and thanks to an unrushed plot and tight direction, it makes for an incredible journey that will most likely make you reflect on your own.
Highlight: There are so many amazing little moments in this film, but if I had to pick one, I would go for Witherspoon's first night alone in the wild. It perfectly captures all the emotions one would expect from someone who just realised they might have bit off more than they could chew.