Wild: Hollywood Takes on the Trail

I’m not gonna lie, I read Wild, and yes, I liked it.

I know. Opinions vary on any personal account of a hike that doesn’t result in a total mile completion or that might bring novices into our beloved trails of solitude.  With the impending release of the Hollywood version of Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller, trail communities will be abuzz with opinions, both in favor and out of favor for the film.

Having made a documentary film, Hard Way Home that deals with similar elements as Wild – I can understand the importance of a story such as this.  Everyone has a reason for hiking a trail and those reasons can range from simple dreams we had as a child, to a traumatic life-changing event.  There is a recognition that stripping ourselves of all that is unnecessary in order to commune with nature is in and of itself a healing act.

Let’s get this part straight first.  Wild is a movie.  Movies do multiple things.  They entertain, they provide an escape and if they are worthwhile films, they make us think and question ourselves and everything around us.  To say Wild will cause an overload of inexperienced hikers is the equivalent of saying The Boondock Saints or (insert shoot em up movie here) will promote vigilantism.  If anything it is refreshing to see Hollywood complete a film that just might pass the Bechdel Test.

“If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve.”

The trailer brilliantly starts off with a few landscape shots of only a tiny bit of what the PCT has to offer while Reese Whitherspoon reads a line from Emily Dickinson.  Strayed’s story is neatly summed up in that sentence and I feel a kinship to that.  The wise old man in my trailer seen here  remarks how most souls cling to their negativity and suffer with the inability to let go.  Wild and Hard Way Home are about letting go, going above your nerve, forgiving others, forgiving yourself and putting one foot in front of the other to move forward with your life.  The main characters in these films hit rock bottom and must find their way back.

Not all hikes are like this, not all journey’s are. Some really are just about hiking a trail, but  Strayed hiked her own hike and what came out of it was not only personal resolution but a brilliant story woven through time, built on an experience that changed her life.  Take this film for what it is. A story about emotional survival, a character drama about coming back from the depths of a personal hell.  This isn’t a story about the PCT anymore than my documentary is a story about the A.T.  Worthwhile stories do not sit on the surface and show you what you already know.  They provide character development, have a structural arc and dig deeper thematically into elements of humanity.

Wild will take you along the ride of a wounded soul, with the trail only serving as a backdrop, and what a beautiful backdrop it is. Go ahead, go above your nerve, and enjoy it. I know I will.


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