On a personal journey for enlightenment and recovery, Cheryl Strayed looks to move past her mother’s passing and find strength in herself. Haunted by the memories of her childhood and the mistakes of her early adulthood, she packs up her life and heads out on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Almost finding herself at a wall after only the first five miles, she find enough strength to push forward. As she continues on the trail, she begins to realize that she may have not packed well as she gets the chance to reconnect with people at the stops along the trail. As she gets closer and closer to her final destination, she both realizes the impact that she is having on other hikers and the healing she experiences from completing her journey.
Review: Although appearing to be a similar story to the 2008 film Into the Wild, the storytelling was much stronger in the character development and intrigue of Cheryl’s real story. Reese Witherspoon (Cheryl) brought the story to life with the powerful range of emotions she has come to project through her performances. While a large amount of the travel through the wild was more simply a woman braving the elements, Witherspoon was able to harness her talents through her interactions with Laura Dern (Bobbi) as the two had somewhat divisive and supportive interactions. Dern maintained a consistently positive demeanor to match Bobbi’s optimistic outlook, even in the face of her eventual demise to illness. Witherspoon, on the other hand, projected the conflict of a daughter struggling with her mother’s illness and her brother’s ability to be present for the family.
As for the journey, it was not necessarily the most dramatic or exciting adventure to hit the big screen, but the encounters Cheryl had throughout her journey made the experience more intriguing. Besides the moments where she considered quitting, there were times when she had to determine whether to remain separated from other people or attempt to apply some trust. When she first encountered Frank, she was worried for her safety when their trip back to his place waited until nightfall. She was surprised to find that he was actually married and a kind man. When she meets the hunters further along the trail, her instincts were right when she remained defensive against the one man’s awkward interaction. Her journey was also shaped by other hikers, rangers, and a fox that reappeared several times to remind her why she was out on the trail.
A trailblazer for some or just another traveler for others. Regardless of how people saw Cheryl’s journey, the film was certainly an entertaining trip up the Pacific Crest Trail.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5