Have you ever walked a mile in someone else's shoes? How about 1,100 miles?
Based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 bestselling memoir (which was heavily endorsed by Oprah), Wild tells the powerful story of a woman's solo trek across Western wilderness, as she attempts to regain control of her life and seek redemption from her inner demons, by walking the Pacific Crest Trail – think of Eat, Pray, Love, minus the good food, and you'll get the idea.
In director Jean-Marc Vallée's movie adaptation, Reese Witherspoon takes on the role of the hiking novice, who sets out on the gruelling trek from Mexico to Canada.
Armed with a gigantic backpack, nicknamed Monster, by fellow hikers, Cheryl tries to come to terms with the untimely death of her mother Bobbi (Dern), which resulted in her looking for solace in all the wrong places (drugs, sexual exploits, and a tricky divorce).
From brutal summer desert heat and thick snowfall, to blistered bloody feet and missing toenails, every step of Cheryl's walk echoes the regret of her past decisions.
The use of subtle flashback scenes accompanied by Stray's inner monologue gradually reveals something of the life she had before, while the occasional introduction of other hikers along the way, brings the viewer on Cheryl's journey of loss and recovery.
Screenwriter Nick Hornby's decision to underplay the humour in the script and resistance to create overly dramatic moments, allows the emotionally resonant and truly moving story to be told with conviction.
Witherspoon delivers the most honest performance of her career and is surprisingly convincing at playing a woman who is substantially younger than her (Cheryl was 26, while Reese is 38). However, despite her youthful looks, the 'High School' scenes could have benefited from casting a different actress.
Dern triumphs in her role as the loving single mother, who despite several setbacks, continues to put her heart and soul into raising her two children.
Vallée helped Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to Oscar wins with Dallas Buyer's Club last year, and hopefully 2015 is the year where he takes a gong home for his own mantelpiece.