Wild (Film Review)

Wild (Film Review)

New to the Netflix Canada’s film lineup is the highly acclaimed Reese Witherspoon film, Wild, which in a way serves as the female counterpart to the excellent Into the Wild.

The story is about a bright, but very troubled young woman, who suffers after the loss of her mother to cancer. Once her mother dies, Cheryl goes off the rails, ruining her marriage through a number of meaningless sexual encounters, and a dark path towards heroin use.

wild3Needing to clear her head, Cheryl decides that she is going to hike the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the most difficult and lengthy trails in the United States. This gives her the chance to think about her life, about her self-destruction, and about the memories of her mother, that will keep pushing her feet forward on the arduous journey.

Wild is an excellent, and calming, film. It is sedate, allowing the viewer to undertake the harrowing journey with Cheryl. It is extremely well directed, and well edited. I will not often notice the editing in the film, but the way the flashbacks to her life are integrated with her journey is seamless, and manages to add realism and drama to her quest.

Pushed by the strong direction, Witherspoon gives a tremendous performance, which is more about her reactions and facial expressions than it is about the minimal dialogue that she mutters. Wild is a film, after all, where she spends the majority of her time on her own, so her dialogue is infrequent. It’s not about the talking, it’s about the walking, and the journey. She was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, and rightfully so. It is subtle, and introspective.

wild2As for the journey itself, it is filled with beautiful scenery and the fact that Cheryl is not an accomplished hiker. She makes many mistakes, including carrying a pack that she can barely lift, the wrong kind of fuel for her stove, and hiking boots that are the wrong size, causing her feet to appear out of a horror movie. We feel bad for her, at times, knowing that she is making a ton of rookie mistakes, but that is a part of it: to learn as she goes, just as it is with the recovery and acceptance of her mother’s death, and the stopping of her downward spiral.

It is quite the transformation to go from a sophisticated scholar, to a girl having heroin injected into her legs, to having sex with multiple men in alleyways, to taking off, alone, on a dangerous hike that has been able to make many experienced hikers call it quits. Her journey is a tough one, but her goal is simple: make it to the end, so that she can start all over again, even if that is a scary proposition.

Wild is a very good film. It is calm, and quiet, and allows us to see and understand the introspection needed by our main character in order for her to simply be okay. Definitely worth watching.

Mile…Mile & a Half (Film Review)

Mile…Mile & a Half (Film Review)

This adventure documentary, which can be found on Netflix, is about a group of friends, artists, photographers, filmmakers, and sound technicians, who set out to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California. The hike is over 200 miles, crosses snow and desert and mountain passes and rivers that are bigger than they might seem. It will take the group 25 days to cross the entire trail, and show us their adventures along the way. 

Mile…Mile & a Half works for two simple reasons: 1. the scenery is absolutely incredible. Having talented people on the hike means that there are beautiful panoramic views of waterfalls and mountains throughout the film. It is incredible to see the untouched nature that lies in California, a place we often imagine with only beaches, surf, and bustling cities. But there remains a massive part of the state that is open to those who want to see it, and the JMT is a great example of that. The second reason this film works so well is because of the people. They are fun, and enjoyable to watch throughout the film. These are not jacked-up adrenaline junkies, doing crazy things that normal people could never pull off doing. They are regular folks, who love the outdoors. This is not a life-testing hike, and despite a couple of dangerous spots, we know that they are going to come out alive on the other side. There is nothing terribly extreme about the JMT, just a ton of natural beauty, enjoyed by some pretty fun people, that by the end of the film, we totally wouldn’t mind meeting along the way on a hike. 

mile2Perhaps the best part of the documentary is the other people that the group encounters along the trail. They aren’t making a film selfishly, about themselves, and about overcoming the obstacles of nature. They are making a film about being in it, and loving it. And a part of that is the lives of the other people that they meet along the way. They give them screen time, and we get to know their stories as well. The teachers from Colorado who join up with their group. The young painters, who hike every day with heavy loads of canvas and paints on their backs so they can get some incredible views in the early morning light. The musicians, who they meet near the end of their journey. And the Japanese woman, who is doing the trail alone, but in the end realizes that she really wants to share in her success, and wants the camaraderie.

While the film is about nature, it is about people too. And that is what makes it such a fun watch. While they challenge themselves, they remain real people, and they like to have fun. They get goofy, give each other nicknames, make bets, and play games along the way. 

For those who love nature, and perhaps have never seen the incredible, pristine beauty that California has to offer, Mile…Mile & a Half is a worthy film for you to watch.