Friday, 16 January 2015


The films of Jean-Marc Vallee do not suggest that you attempt to prise them open, to peer deeper within in search of hidden subtext. If their appeal, and their character, is skin-deep, it is knowingly so - they are sensuous, evocative objects, imbued with generous humanity and emotional sensitivity, like cinematic 'people-pleasers'. Wild is rugged, like its terrain, and determined, like its protagonist. It's a humble story, a journey from despair to uncertainty, its victories small and fleeting, its propensity for uplift seriously limited. It's under such terms that it elicits our admiration, so arduous is the task, so brave the woman who sets it herself. And, as a personal statement, made by someone quite reluctant to share it with others, it avoids the kind of grandstanding moralising that could have sunk it in one simple step. Vallee is eager for us to appreciate most keenly the immediate physical qualities of Cheryl Strayed's trek, and the more permanent psychological qualities - Wild is a movie of the head and the feet, as Strayed grounds herself on the earth below her, and escapes to the clouds above. Vallee's exuberance renders our experience of the journey radically different to hers, since we actually enjoy it, and best comprehend its variations; one imagines she was far better acquainted with its monotony. Either way, it's a successful journey both as a film and as a personal reinvention. Prise it open, and there's no question: those permanent psychological changes are far more potent for Strayed than for us. But this is an enjoyable film regardless of its lack of depth, rugged, determined and admirable.