“It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
— Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
The year of 2015 was filled with intriguing films starring women. In Cake, Jennifer Aniston acting as Claire Simmons, a woman who suffers from chronic pain who has the ability to vision the unusual, and also Julianne Moore acting as a linguistics professor in Still Alice who comes face to face with a shocking early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I have yet to catch these two films starring the Hollywood’s A-list actresses – I chose to watch the critically acclaimed Wild first, an adaptation from the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed, a devastated woman caught in an emotional wreckage upon losing her most beloved mother, and spirals into a self-destructive state (giving up on her marriage, engaging in drugs and sexual activities with other men) in the aftermath of this trauma. Strayed then embarks on the journey along the Pacific Crest Trail as a form of rehabilitation to retrieve her sense of self that vanished ever since the past four years (By the way, I personally find it pretty fascinating that the main character’s last name is actually ‘Strayed’. How coincidentally eponymous does this actually sound?).
It is a known fact that the PCT actually covers more than 1000 miles of route from California all the way to Canada, and of course along the journey a hiker is able to reach several pit stops to attain parcels being sent to them, or to attain their basic necessities from small towns nearby. Hiking along the trail allows one to cross 25 national forests and 7 national parks.
The film accentuates a hint of feminism – I’m brought back to this particular scene where Strayed meets another bold female hiker along the trail. The female hiker asks if she has ever came across a male hiker named Gregg, and informs Strayed that Gregg quitted because he was daunted by the snow. And Strayed flashes an amused face and says “Gregg quitted, and I’m still here?”
I couldn’t help but smirk a little and feel proud of womankind at that instant.
What Strayed has conquered is definitely beyond a woman’s capability, and also arguably ascended the human capacity. She took a mere 94-day trek along the crest, dragging along a backpack with her own two feet, literally going the distance to rediscover and get herself back on track. This obscure journey would not be a popular measure taken by any average human being, especially in this day and age where people have obligations in terms of career and family. Mobile phones are also virtually banished – hikers receive snail mail from their kin – which is rare for a contemporary film to portray such rudimentary form of living.
Along with the enchanting, lush landscapes of the trail that were beautifully-captured on film, Reese Witherspoon’s superb acting was also a defining factor that made Wild a commercial success. It has been acknowledged back in 2005’s Walk The Line that she is a polished actress who can literally be whoever she is assigned to be (especially through the numerous renditions of June Carter’s tunes that got me really awestruck). In Wild she initially made travelling alone seem like a hopelessly forlorn idea, specifically in the scene where she desperately attempted to heave her backpack upwards. That amount of excruciating pain on her face can never be easily forgotten by any viewer.
The film connotes a bittersweet notion, as we see Strayed immerse herself in fatigue, alienation and doubt in an attempt to rectify past folly. Yet I believe that it has successfully sparked the fire within some of us, to want to go on such ruthlessly ambitious trips as well. It doesn’t need to be an adventure that requires you to sail the seven seas. Just going to places on your own two feet. How empowering does that sound.
“I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet.
Yes I would.
If I only could,
I surely would.”