Published: 07/01/2015 10:04 - Updated: 08/01/2015 13:44


Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed.
Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed.


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By Margaret Chrystall

YOU can see why there’s already talk of Reese Witherspoon’s finest performance since her Oscar-winning one as June Carter Cash in Walk The Line nine years ago. It’s not easy being Cheryl Strayed.

In real-life, the mixed-up kid's adult life had gone off the rails and she walked alone on the Pacific Crest trail,1000-odd miles from Mojave to Oregon, in a bid to get her head – and her life - together. Reese Witherspoon optioned Cheryl’s resulting book.

This film from Dallas Buyers’ Club director Jean-Mark Vallee uses lots of flashback to paint in Cheryl’s past while still leaving space to be awestruck by the landscape and on the edge of your seat at times as we experience her journey – the animals, close calls, tender moments and lonely slog of trying to survive the wild.

What happens: If there was any dilemma about where to start this film, director Vallee chose well. In the script by Nick Hornby we’re teased by the sounds we first hear in a vast landscape, before zoning in on our first encounter with our travelling companion in this film.

Grief-stricken, emotionally-battered Cheryl Strayed is having a minor self-destruct moment, helped by a boot making a break for freedom. Newly split from her husband, she has vowed to walk the trail alone, promising herself to complete the 1000-mile challenge – even though we quickly see how inexperienced she is. Just getting her loaded backpack on is a small achievement. But as she walks, we hear her internal voice and watch episodes from her past, soundtracked by the intro to Simon & Garfunkel's Homeward Bound that builds as the story unfolds. Encounters with people - and animals – along the trail, from danger to companionship, counterbalance the pain and traumas of the life she’s walking away from.

Quote: Cheryl recalls some wise words from her hippy mom (played by Laura Dern) to share with temporary trail companion Stacey: “My mom said there’s a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there or not. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”

Who for: Anyone curious about what it’s like to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail. But this movie is a story anyone could get wrapped up in as Reese Witherspoon makes Cheryl someone you quickly care about.

Quick review: Reese Witherspoon excels as a wild child who tries to get her life back on track, attempting a walk back to happiness with an epic challenge, woman v wilderness.

Wild is at Eden Court Cinema from Friday, January 16 until 29.

There's a special tie-in event on Thursday, January 29 at 7pm when long-distance walker and Sandstone Press author Chris Townsend talks about his book Rattlesnakes And Bald Eagles: Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail. The final screening of the film follows at 8.30pm

Sandstone Press's new book about a Pacific Crest Trail adventure.
Sandstone Press's new book about a Pacific Crest Trail adventure.

Sandstone Press in Dingwall - which has just won the Saltire Society's publisher of the year title - has just brought out Rattlesnakes And Bald Eagles: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by Chris Townsend (£15.99).

It's the account with pictures of Chris's journey on the full 2,650 trail all the way from Mexico to Canada back in the 80s when the trail was less well-known and modern technical developments -  like lighter fabrics - weren't yet around to help. 

But as he says in his final chapter about the impact Cheryl Strayed's story and the film will have: "Many, I suspect, will be hoping the trail will have the same life-changing effect it had on Cheryl Strayed.

"If so, I hope it does."

Then, a few paragraphs later, Chris points out: "However much information you have, walking the PCT hasn't changed.

"The desert is still hot. The mountains are still steep. The mosquitos still bite. The rain still falls.

"Hiking the PCT is never going to be easy. But the rewards will always be great."

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