Wild & The importance of the woman's solo journey | Film

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By Claire


Women--and humans--are complex by nature. We run with our emotions, seek adventure, love and grieve, and have a tendency to lose ourselves. When life gets us down, it's not uncommon to seek isolation, and nature, to figure ourselves out and reset.

You know what I'm talking about. In every movie or tv show, there's that scene when life gets to be too much, the sad or wronged protagonist gets up and drives or runs away, and sit's on the hood of their car or on a hill, looking out into the ocean pensively as the sun sets around them and a familiar song plays in the soundtrack. I often like to recreate these scenes on the train back to my hometown, ipod playing the perfect song to set the mood as I stare out the window.

Wild (2014) is all of this, and yet so much more.

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild (2014)

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (who is a male, but bear with me, this is relevant), 'Wild' is the second film produced by all-female production company Pacific Standard (Reese Witherspoon and Australian Bruna Papendrea).

When Pacific Standard was announced, I flipped. Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papendrea saw the lack of strong female characters in films, and decided to center their production company exactly around that, by optioning for books with strong and interesting female leads, starting with 'Gone Girl' and 'Wild' in 2014.

Originally a book, 'Wild' is like the female counterpart to solo-adventure book, 'Into the Wild'. 

Into the Wild is a book predominantly read by young men, and is herald as a must-read book for all men in their 20s. First published in 1996 by Jon Krakaeur, 'Into the Wild' is a non-fiction novel, telling the story of Christopher McCandless, who in 1992, not long after graduating, he gave away all his money and possessions and started to hitch-hike across America to Alaska. He was then found dead after 100 days. Now, this book has received much critical acclaim, and is used as a high school text.

In 2007 Sean Penn (ew) directed the film adaption starring Emile Hirsch as McCandless. The score was written by Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam and the film won awards across the national and international film festival circuit, as well as two Golden Globe and two Oscar nominations. 

Theatrical poster for Sean Penn's adaption of Into the Wild (2007)

The whole thing, as a girl, seems a bit wanky to me. From what I've seen, Into the Wild is probably a beautiful movie, but I can't tell if the story is inspiring or a cautionary tale. Let's not forget, this kid was found dead in Alaska. He came from a "well-to-do family" (which is stressed in the first sentence of the blurb, and even on the front cover of the book because this is Very Important Information), and one day decided to give away all his possessions, donate his entire savings ($24, 000)  to charity (which was actually very nice of him), burn the rest, and just decide to go on his wilderness trek with 10-pounds of rice and a rifle. 

How is 'Into the Wild' a story to look to re: finding yourself and great solo adventures? This guy was unprepared and died. It feels like a very male indulgence, believing you can give up everything and just live in the wild with no preparation. 

As a woman, when I was feeling lost and felt the itch for adventure, 'Into the Wild' seemed less than ideal.

This is why I am so thankful for 'Wild'.

'Wild' is an adaption of Cheryl Strayed's memoir of the same name. Published in 2012, Strayed shares her story, motivations and experience of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a hike spanning form the Mexican-Californian border all the way up to Canada, solo. After the rapid loss of her mother to cancer when she was 22, Strayed distanced herself from her family and husband. Moving constantly around the country, Strayed started taking heroine and got a divorce form her husband. One day she comes across a book about the Pacific Crest Trail, and uses the journey as a way to "walk [herself] back to the woman [her] mother thought [she] was." 

Witherspoon in Wild

The PCT is a space away from conventional standards of beauty placed on women. The first time we meet Witherspoon as Strayed at the very beginning of the movie, Strayed is ripping dead toenails off of her battered feet. Here is a female character without makeup, without her hair glamourously done, covered in dirt and sweat and grime. Her body is not sexualised while she is hiking, her body is bruised, battered, grazed, tortured: her body is a warrior. 

'Wild' is a story of self-discovery, of a solitary woman hiking a trail predominantly walked by men. The scenery is beautiful, the sound-track nostalgic for a life lost, and exactly what I need as a woman in her 20's. 

When I was feeling lost, like I was floating and in need of an anchor, I had Cheryl Strayed, and 'Wild' and the PCT to look to. I need to go on my own journey. Admittedly, not to the extent that Cheryl did, but just a quick train ride through regional Victoria to my home town and watching 'Wild' a couple of times was more than enough to help me find that anchor, and satisfy this restless feeling, if only momentarily. Something that I do not believe 'Into the Wild' can provide. 

My favourite part?

Cheryl survives the journey. 

** Cause a Cine do not take any ownership of images used
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