Don’t stop reading! Not just yet. I promise I’m not swearing just for the sake of being rude. Now, imagine. The sun, shining brightly. Hot on your skin. The wind, brushing your cheeks softly. The mountains around you, majestic. Nothing but nature. It is beautiful. It makes you feel a bit dizzy. You forget how to breathe.
But wait. Your feet hurt. Your legs hurt. Your back hurts. You’ve been walking for so long to get there. Your shoes are like a furnace of hell. Your lungs are about to explode. You’re thirsty. So thirsty. But you can’t drink too much. You have to spare the water for later. And the food. At this point, any kind of decent food is but a fading memory. Let’s not even talk about hygiene. You reek. And you know it.
And you’ve been carrying so many things. Your backpack is too big for you. You can barely get up with it, let alone walk. When was the last time you used binoculars anyway? But that’s not the hardest thing you have to carry. The hardest thing is your mind. Memories are circling into your brain and there is just no way you can get them out. You’re all alone. With your mistakes. Your regrets. Pictures of your loved ones dancing in front of your eyes, so far away. And it’s all been building up inside you for hours, days, months. Maybe even years. Until it’s become this knot, right under your diaphragm. This knot that stops your breath sometimes, without a warning. It could be in the supermarket, watching a family buy a cake. Or at work because someone is laughing.
But now, at the top of this mountain, the knot is in your throat. And it won’t get out. You’re in pain, and this gorgeous, powerful nature is crushing you. You stop. You give up for just a second. Or maybe for the day. You look around. You love what you see as much as you hate it. You have to sit down. Your feet are killing you. You take off your shoes only to realize your feet are bleeding.
And one of your shoes falls. It falls, and falls, and falls away. Lost. You’re stunned. Not quite believing that it actually happened. How stupid would that be? But it did. And the knot finally breaks in your throat. You SCREAM!!!
This isn’t exactly how Wild begins. But it’s close enough to get you in the mood.
Have you ever been hiking? I have. Lots of times, with my family. I like to walk for hours, barely saying a word. Sometimes my head is empty, just taking in the magnificence of nature, sometimes it’s buzzing with stories and possibilities. With just enough of my family’s presence to make me feel at home.
Every once in a while, my grandfather will stop us and point towards the horizon.
“Look!” He’ll say, his hawk eyes surely having spotted a deer, a fox, an eagle, or maybe even a marmot.
“Where? I can’t see!!!”
“Shhh! You’ll make it run away!”
My little brother would usually complain for about five seconds before being shushed by one of the grown-ups. It’s our well known routine. It’s always made me smile.
Wild was both so close to what I’ve experienced and so far away that it kept me fascinated for the entire duration of the movie.
Starting with Cheryl Strayed’s (Reese Witherspoon) backpack. Twice as big as she is. Three times heavier. A ridiculous aberration, leading to a lot of writhing to simply manage to lift it. Yet familiar. The result of a lot of “What ifs”. And in the back of my mind, always, the fond voice of my grandfather, half exasperated, half amused, talking to my grandmother:
“What are you doing? … No, the only scenario where we’d need that much food would be during the apocalypse… Well I’m the one carrying the bag and I say we leave the tabbouleh here… Yes I know you made it yourself but we’ll have it tonight.”
It’s a human thing to pack too much when leaving for some unknown adventure. Things that we never use suddenly appear as essential despite, or because of, the 0.01 percent chance that we may need them.
Then there’s the heroin’s relation to her mother. She says it herself: “My mother was the love of my life”. Losing her broke her like nothing else did. And her distress hit me like a high speed train. Would I ever survive if my mother were to die so suddenly? Would I lose my sanity? It would break me. And once I’ve established that, how can I possibly judge Cheryl Strayed for all the mistakes she’s made because of this loss?
Because this is what this movie is really about: how a young, smart, gentle woman spiraled out of control after her mother passed away. And how she decided to say stop, and the only way she found to get her life back, somehow, was to leave, far away, alone, for an impossible journey. Would I have the courage to do that? I don’t know.
If I did though, I would probably talk to myself life she does, swear a lot, like she does, tell myself I can give up every two seconds, like she does. Cry and smile, be afraid and angry and happy…
I wish I could say I’d manage to turn my life around in the end, like she did, but that would be incredibly presumptuous, and maybe even insulting to the incredible strength it took her to do so.
More than just a movie about some girl doing a trek, Wild takes you on a journey full of love, of happiness and of despair, drowning you into some of the worst aspects of life, where there’s sex and drugs, but no rock n’ roll. All of it wrapped into the most beautiful landscapes you could possibly imagine.
I have tried to give you a glimpse of how I felt upon watching this movie. There is a lot more I could say, but where would be the fun for you. I suggest you book two hours of your time and let yourself be swept away by this true masterpiece.
And remember: “Fear begets fear. Power begets power.” (Cheryl Strayed)