Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review of 'Wild'

A film about the healing power of nature. Cheryl goes off the rails after her mother dies unexpectedly and suddenly of spine cancer. She sleeps around, she snorts and then shoots up heroin, she gets in with a bad crowd. A nice man rescues her, they get married, but she cheats on him, so they get divorced even though they are still friends. Then she decides to walk herself better by doing the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1100 mile hike from the Mexican to the Canadian border.

 The film is about the walk, the physical endurance it requires, and how it does end up healing her. It’s very beautiful, and occasionally scary – not the nature (as in the film 'Into the Wild', where it's the nature that ultimately kills the person who has sought it out), but the men she meets along the way. Sometimes they are overtly threatening, sometimes it’s just the sheer fact of her being alone and vulnerable. We see the men as she would see them, so even those who turn out to be OK in the end are quite frightening.

Two thoughts: one, the film was made much more poignant and moving for me because I watched it with my Mum, who herself had cancer of the spine when she was about 45 – the same age as Cheryl’s mum. But my Mum survived and has had all those extra years that Cheryl and her mother didn’t.
 Two, I was reminded of an observation that I think was by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian – that we think of nature as healing because being in it removes us from the dense world of signs and context that we are working so hard to interpret all the time. In the forest, things are what they seem to be – a tree just is a tree. Of course, that’s not true in films, because everything is only there because it carries some meaning; the fox that visits Cheryl represents her mother who went away and left her, the fast-flowing stream is a challenge to be overcome, and so on.

Still, a nice gentle, often funny, and thoughtful film.

No comments: