Movie Metaview: Wild

Posted: February 29, 2016 in Faith, Movies


The solo journey as a story device is one that delivers rites of passage, transcendent experiences and impressive man-against-nature victories. This opportunity to immerse us the audience in an otherworldly environment – be it ocean (All Is Lost), desert (Tracks) or 370 miles of road on a lawn mower (The Straight Story) – can lift us from mere travelogue to pointed metaphor with the smoothest of segues. When real people with real foibles are thrust into alien landscapes, they are presented with their real selves… and we too.

Whereas Into The Wild  (also a true story) gave us Chris McCandless heading into the wilderness to lose himself, in Wild (based on the original 2012 memoir) we see Cheryl Strayed heading into much the same territory, but to truly find herself. She is still grieving the loss of someone very close, and her method of dealing with it, as we discover in snippets, has been to destroy her marriage with a string of one-night stands, spiralling drug abuse and discarding any helping extended her way. She knows she’s enslaved to her impulses, although unable to voice it aloud, but does admit she’s “lonelier in my real life than I am out here“. So she’s taken to trekking the 1100 mile Pacific Crest Trail alone as an intentional cathartic gamble.

She’s already changed her surname deliberately after her divorce to one that personifies her recent actions – “Strayed” – is currently between permanent addresses, and realises increasingly that the moment will come when the journey ends and she has no idea what will become of her: “I have only another 300 miles left to walk. I’m desperate for it to be over. I’m terrified too. When I’m done, I’ll only have two dimes to my name, but I’ll have to start living. I’m nowhere near ready.

What’s significant is that the final steps of her epic journey occur via a bridge over the Columbia River called the “Bridge Of The Gods”. It had not been her intention to follow that final route, but extreme weather had forced her hand. And in the taking of that fork, we discover that with this being a true story and not simply the work of a poetic imagination, there must be some kind of an Authoring behind her journey: Cheryl had stepped away from a life of effective slavery, alone and inexperienced, into a wilderness that allowed all her fears, predispositions and values to surface for raw review, and once she’d been reduced to her knees in grief and acceptance, finally took a step of faith across a highly symbolic river-crossing into her hoped-for promised land. Thankfully, her final spoken thoughts tell us she did; her life now is not the one she had beforehand, and she is experiencing grace she had not expected – she found her yearned-for redemption.

It can be so often in the extremes of life we discover our true values and an orchestration that gives us a choice: do we step into the unknown, trusting something (Someone) greater, or determine ourselves to still be the captain of our own souls? Where are we placing our faith?

  1. […] my heart; Reese Witherspoon’s fragile determination to find rescue in hope is outstanding. (I wrote about this one back in […]

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