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Martin I. Petrov

Cine-voyeur. Festival traveller currently based in Glasgow, UK. 

Festival director at WoFF: World of Film International Festival Glasgow. 

Festival Coordinator at MIAFF: Montreal International Animation Film Festival 

Writing reviews, articles and a passionate interview lover. 


WILD: London FF Review

Wild, dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, 2014, US 



It is rather a common thing to push ourselves beyond the borderline in an attempt to see what it takes to confront our fears. This challenge now has potentially evolved into the journey of encountering our dreams and testing our capability to either pursue or quit them; but is it easy to define a dream as a ‘to quit’ or ‘to live’, before knowing the cost? 


Wild is about dreams. Or, to be more exact, the force of designing a dream. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Water for Elephants) is Cheryl, a freshly divorced, former drug-addict in her thirties who for the first time in her life decides to burst the bubble of her existential crisis and recreate herself by hiking the 1100 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the US / Mexican border and all the way to Canada. 


Based on the autobiography by Cheryl Strayed, Wild is a powerful tale for human nature and at the same time a female manifesto that spreads out the wide spectrum of the heroine’s psychology. We meet Cheryl when she is hilariously ‘wrestling’ with a huge backpack, ready to begin her journey, leaving a joyless and self-destructive life behind. As soon as she steps into what seems to be the abyss for a city girl who’s never hiked before, Cheryl’s long haul through the wilderness does not only hold dangers of physical kind. Sounds of nature, her survival instincts that begin to sharpen and the loneliness refuel her mind with flashbacks that break the linear storyline and shed light on Cheryl’s past. 


Whereas initially one could think that this is just another hippie American girl that dropped out of college and decided to spend a gap year in the mountains, the story takes a long turn and we find out that Cheryl’s mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) was diagnosed with cancer and died some years ago and that the protagonist is still attached and in love with her ex husband from whom she split for having ‘drugs, sex & rock’n’roll’ affairs. 


With a relentless charisma Witherspoon pulls out a female lead that shows strong potential in her life transforming experience without being hyper-dramatic, painfully vulnerable or extremely embellished character in a considerably common biopic on a life changing experience. While Cheryl transforms from a light-headed and capricious young city girl to a self-sufficient and considerate grown-up survivor, Wild reaches beyond the niche superficiality of a one-off hiking dream-come-true story. The non-linear storytelling rapidly changes the expectation that similar autobiographical adaptations have created, being usually monotonous and with poor plot development. Witherspoon grasps the emotional torpedo of Cheryl Strayed’s scriptorium, being spontaneously funny and utterly frustrated at the same time. 


For more than a hundred days alone, Cheryl struggles with burning deserts, freezing snowy mountains, her  deeply rooted memories and pain, and the day-to-day hardship to overcome her fears and become one with her origins, fact that will enable her to position herself again among others. 


With sparse human interaction that bring out weird primitive instincts, Wild turns out to be a hilarious and natural, well balanced dramatic story of a young adult who revalues relationships and regains her personal dignity while rewinding moments and choices. All this, with the breathtaking landscape frame, in a bizarre parallel universe, could be a female Brokeback mountain, in a tent for singles. 






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