Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
I like Reese Witherspoon as an actress. Though I haven't seen that many of her films, she is a good screen presence, and in recent years has shown a great commitment to producing good roles for women (in and effort to shake off all those thankless comedy girl roles I haven't seen her in!). Her turn as Cheryl Strayed in Wild is one of the films produced by her production company Pacific Standard, a performance which, at the Oscars, was up against another performance in a film which she produced: Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.
Vallee is known for delivering Awards-attracting performances; his Dallas Buyers Club snaffled both male Oscar categories in 2013. He gets a very good performance from Witherspoon here. She is in basically every scene and pretty much every shot in the film, and takes us from Strayed's teenage years to her early thirties as she treks the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon takes us into Strayed experiences, particularly the anguish contained in her memories of her mother and her marriage. The pain of remembrance is mixed with the physical effort of the hike, and this pain works to both push and pull Strayed on her journey.
One of the great strengths of the script and direction is the portrayal of the trek purely from Strayed's perspective. We feel the moments of charged tension and danger with her. This is highlighted by the scene where two other (male) trekkers ask her for use of her water purifier. The scene is laden with unspoken threat, and we like Strayed are thinking 'Get out of here now!'.
I really liked this film, and hope Witherspoon continues to produce and indeed act in these stories with great roles for women. I now also want to read Strayed's memoir about the trek; judging from the voiceover, and various interviews I have heard of her, she is a good writer.