(directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, 2014)
**** (out of 5)
> I know Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical book was popular, the film version well-liked, but I was not prepared for this flick to be so damn good! I wonder what made me so skeptical?
. Central to the quality of this film: a truly fine performance by the ever-growing Reese Witherspoon. Like Christian Bale, she started out as a child actor and grew up to develop a serious talent. Reese is so very real, vulnerable and unglamorous and believable in this tale of a woman whose life fell apart, so she made the impulsive decision to “walk it off”… along the length of the entire Pacific Cost Trail! It’s both a man-verses-nature drama, and a story about overcoming inner demons, and both elements are so well articulated. In adapting her book for the screen, author Cheryl Strayed tells a compelling story of crisis and transformation. We come to know this lost pilgrim in flashback, as her past washes over her along the seemingly endless trail, gradually discovering the choices she made that led her to this spot. When Cheryl does encounter other people along her journey, she invariably learns about herself in the process, forming new friendships and possible new romances, but also facing frightening encounters with possibly malevolent strangers, that test her meddle just as much as the natural world has.
. It is so nice to see, that in this case the ‘man’ in question battling nature, is a woman. We need more women writers writing better parts for women, and many more women at the helm, sitting in the director’s chair. This is the next evolution of the cinema: we need to empower women in telling their unique stories, and expand the limitations gender-bias enforces upon the movies.
. The production looks and sounds great and there is no shortage of gorgeous scenery to enjoy in this drama, peppered as life is, by unexpected moments of great mirth. Happy to say, I loved the ending- it made me teary-eyed, and having seen so many films, I am not usually that easy to manipulate emotionally. That kind of emotional involvement indicates a good story, well told.
. In this case, also very well acted and photographed.
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