So Wednesday morning started off badly: TFL decided to be as shit as ever, which consequently meant I turned up to work over an hour late. AND it just had to be on a day when I needed to be in the office in time for a meeting that usually involves half the company being present and requires me to speak in front of everyone and hold up my amazing marketing plans to global scrutiny. To be honest, I felt worse for the guy sulking in his seat next to me on the tube – I overhead him telling another angry tuber that he had spent six painstaking months to organise the meeting he was on the way to and had been on the tube since 6.45am to get there on time, and now he wasn’t going to make it. I shed an invisible tear for the guy. What I cannot seem to comprehend is why the moment London gets a little bit cold with a few icy bits here and there, the transport system must immediately shrivel up and upend itself faster than Mo Farah can run. I had high hopes that morning; hopes of getting all my tasks done that day and not turning up to work all sweaty and disoriented (I had to jump off the tube because it decided that due to signal failure it would completely change its route and turn from the H&C line to the District line – because you know, that’s TFL logic. Then I got a bit lost walking to work because I decided I didn’t need Google Maps to tell me what to do. Sigh.)
Moving on, I planned to go to the movies in the evening with my housemate (enjoying the last remains of Orange Wednesdays – the era of midweek freebies ends on the 25th February 2015 btw – it’s tragic really. I have a phone simply for the purpose of obtaining Orange Wednesday cinema codes, now whatever will I do with this spare Blackberry?). After rejecting most of the options of movies available to watch in cinema at the moment *cough* Taken 3 *cough*, we settled for watching Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. I wasn’t sure what to expect even though online reviews had rated it generally quite positively; but I saw that it was based on a true story so I was like ‘Yeh sure, why not? I have too much fantasy in my life anyway.’ After purchasing the expensive small popcorn option (literally the bag was pea-sized) and going for a Diet Coke (I’m trying to be healthy), my housemate and I settled into cinema seats which we were not assigned to and munched through our goodies whilst discussing the gravity of failing creativity relating to the dire situation of movie names. We saw trailers for a movie called Cake, A Most Violent Year and Son of a Gun – God help me.
Wild starts off with Witherspoon, playing the central character Cheryl Strayed, atop a luscious green mountain squeezing some gross blood from her toes. Yes, I cringed and closed my eyes whilst stuffing the last remains of popcorn into my mouth. I needed to eat it fast if the rest of the movie was going to be like this. Then, she watched in horror as one of her walking boots fell down the side of the mountain. Surprisingly, she picked her other boot up and threw it over too and her voice echoed (thanks to digital surround sound obviously) as she screamed ‘Fuck yoouuuuuuu.’ Take that, TFL.
*MASSIVE SPOILER COMMENTARY COMING UP*
The movie starts off slowly, with Cheryl packing a monstrosity of a backpack to start her journey on a thousand mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a long-distance death trail that lies east of the U.S. Pacific coast. I was kinda bored at the beginning I admit; it just showed shots of her packing lots of camping gear inconsiderately, struggling to get the bag, which was twice her size, onto her back, and then walking a couple of inches in the hot dessert trail before wanting to kill herself for her stupidity. All we know at this point is that she’s a beginner; she’s never hiked before in her life yet her resolve and determination to complete the PCT is evident and unwavering. This naturally, piques our interest. What’s more is that she is completely alone; she has no one accompanying her, no friend, nothing. A single woman, walking all by herself with a book map on what no doubt, is a dangerous terrain with no one in sight for miles.
We soon discover as she makes her way slowly through the trail and accompanying flashbacks – a lot of porno-esque flashbacks frankly – that Cheryl is deeply troubled, and that she did not simply start this hike to cross off something on her bucket list. Through her memories and the voice of her conscious we discover her turbulent past. We see the abuse her mother endured at the hands of her father, the poverty she grew up in and the peaks and troughs of her marriage. Crucially however, we witness the overwhelming bond and unconditional love she has for her mother. It is ultimately her mother’s untimely death that destroys her. We watch as her physical and mental health spirals out of control; she falls into heroin addiction and revels in uninhibited sex – cheating on her husband with anyone who says yes and throwing herself into an intoxicating pattern of self-destructive behaviour, eventually leading her to regret everything that has become of her life.
This is the reason why she embarked on the trail. A trek for self-discovery, redemption and resolution, so she could become the woman her mother wanted her to be. She was screwed up, fucked up, whatever you want to call it, and she wanted to make a change and regain what she had lost of herself. The hike strips her away from civilisation, lets her relive her most painful memories in the tranquillity of nature and gives her the time and space to come to terms with them. Spattered with literary quotes (loved this!), light humour, cute guys (Daario from GoT ❤ ), creepy stalkerish guys, guys who look like they are going to eat you, and guys who look like they are going to jump your tent in the middle of the night, the movie charts the challenges of Strayed’s life before and during the journey, describing the physical challenges she encounters on the trail and the various people she meets – some outright scary and others unexpectedly kind – who help her make sense of her experiences and come to terms with her struggles.
What I really appreciated about this movie was that it raised many questions that trouble us all in some form or another at some point in our lives, if not in the past, then surely some point in the future. It underlines the way we see women in society (the fact that she is a woman by herself on the trail and the dangers associated to this are flagged throughout), mental health and addiction; how we cope with loss, how the shadow of grief can torment us irrevocably, how we learn to cope with our own and other’s expectations of ourselves, and how we can move forward from our mistakes. It delves into human nature in the midst of isolation – for love and longing, for understanding and acceptance from within ourselves, and for escaping dark spaces that we can all too easily get lost in when life throws you the wrong pair of cards.
In a movie that covers such emotionally charged topics, Reese Witherspoon did a brilliant job of conveying Cheryl’s character; the fear, the heartache and the pain were all beautifully depicted throughout. I am certain that there is something that everyone can relate to in this movie. Maybe I was slightly more emotionally entangled, because a lot of it was all too familiar for me and taking a hike in the wild to refresh my mind is something I would do. I related to Cheryl’s character, thought processes and self-corrosive nature and the inner need to find answers to her own questions. The whole movie is all the more compelling because it is based on a true story (see Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed). It was a cathartic experience, and what started off as a rubbish day didn’t feel so bad anymore, because effectively we’re all a little messed up and crappy things happen all the time. Everyone’s fighting their own internal demons in some way – hence why the movie is so easy to relate to. I was surprised that everyone did not stand up and applaud at the end (as weird as this may sound, this actually happened after I watched the King’s Speech in cinema several years back). I certainly thought it was worthy.
It is truly an amazing tale of how one woman conquers herself by setting out on a long road of reflection and redemption. Her independence, commitment and perseverance are remarkable and inspiring. It really shows what you are capable of doing if you push yourself and put your mind to something. The message of the movie? Don’t be so hard on yourself. Life is tough. And when you’re fucked up, take a hike. It will make you a better person.
I couldn’t agree more.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐