“Wild” Review from London Film Festival plus Premiere Photos!

Hot off yesterday’s festival screening of the screen adaption of Cheryl Strayed’s personal memoir of the same name comes photos of the beautiful Reese Witherspoon representing the book to movie on the red carpet plus a review!

And highly rated it was too! Five stars across the board in story, direction, cinematography and performance and described as a triumphant human odyssey!

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There is no higher regard a film can attain that building something extraordinarily expansive from the barest materials – applying basic tools to construct evocative art.

Jean-Marc Vallée has kept the momentum burning in his camera after the recentDallas Buyers Club and enters the 2015 campaign with Wild – the big-screen adaptation of Cheryl Strayed‘s acclaimed personal memoir which documents one woman’s remarkable backpacking voyage.

Reese Witherspoon fills Strayed’s deeply-trodden boots as she sets out to hike across the Pacific Crest Trail which starts at the US-Mexican border and concludes on the fringes of British Columbia, Canada. Over the space of 90 grueling days, she journeys 1,100 miles isolated with merely a backpack fuller than your local supermarket branch and her heart and mind heavy with past demons which need to be exercised.

Upon first glance at the film’s trailer, you’d be hard-pressed not to assume that this was just another Tracks (the sensational Mia Wasikowska Australian Outback drama earlier released in 2014), but Vallée’s latest entry shares slight similarities with such a film; it has it’s own story to tell as well as alternative methods and procedures to do so. Wild sets the assured tone within the opening frame – audiences are instantaneously forced to endure a wince-inducing image before the first minute of film has even completed. From this moment on, any pairing with Tracks will be quickly burrowed under the dust-kicked surface.

The fractured narrative intelligently blends Strayed’s progress through the catalogue of days whilst frequently splicing visual memories of her past life which led her to making the decision to lace up, pack up and flee. All the details exposed in the picture regarding her past life are factual – the woman herself even confirmed that to myself and others moments after viewing – and with the utmost respect for her source material, both Vallée and Witherspoon immerse themselves in the grubbiness. Plagued by domestic horrors including an alcoholic and abusive father, a sunshine-vibrant mother mistaken for a punching bag and a demolished marriage and messy divorce due to her relentless promiscuity, Strayed was certainly a damaged and surprisingly selfish individual prior to the trek; something she isn’t frightened to address verbally.

A few sequences in the film will likely come as a shock to certain viewers, namely the manners in which drug abuse is screened. During a particularly rough patch, Strayed started a chaotic relationship with heroin; again not shielded or downplayed in this picture. Despite holding a heavy sense of sadness and self-ruin, the adapted screenplay from acclaimed British scribe Nick Hornby fizzes and bubbles with knife-blade humor. Many of the conversations shared in Wild are of Strayed either chatting to herself or narrating her mind – both are laden with expletive-sodden laughs that boost the mood as well as further render this fascinating woman who we are lucky enough to be exposed to.

This being a journey film means the testing, unnerving environments are as strongly characterised as Strayed herself. The weather, the personal vulnerability, the unknown; all of these elements are expertly detailed and showcased, making the PCT feel as authentic to those firmly placed on the folding seats as it does to those bold enough to stride through it. Vallée’s direction is astute, sure-footed and effortlessly staged, commanding the lens andWild1 consequently the spectator. Quite obviously however, the cinematography is the true visual ruler; postcard pictures; sweat-beaded, sun-stroked, dust-blown beauty.

Witherspoon – whose own production company Pacific Standard (the giants behind Gone Girl) formed the film – is simply spellbinding. She is truly pushed to her limits here; both psychically and mentally. She beautifully and bashfully glides into Strayed, making the woman her own as well as wholeheartedly honouring her saga and mannerisms. It is likely she’ll gain an Oscar nomination for her efforts here, and rightly so.

Unlike Dallas Buyers Club which was a somewhat average film elevated by two fantastic performances, Witherspoon is Wild; she absolutely controls this wonderful film, embodies it’s messages, meanings values. She gives an extraordinary screen-turn in a picture of equal excellence. Solid work is also offered from Laura Dern who handles Strayed’s wonderfully sunny but emotionally-worn mother. She fronts a couple of lump-in-throat scenes which are likely to give even seasoned viewers a little wobble.

Few films are able to give an audience such a strong sense of place, and even fewer can form such a sprawling, majestic portrait and make it screen so intimately. Wild doesn’t just achieve these notions, it runs riot with them, and continues to pull brilliance out from Strayed’s leaning-tower backpack along the way.

Reese Witherspoon and the book’s author Cheryl Strayed together braved our chilly British weather to look amazing on the Leicester Square red carpet.

Wild screens as the May Fair Hotel Gala at the London Film Festival tonight (13th), 15th & 16th before it finally reaches UK cinemas on 16th January 2015.

If you’ve not yet seen the trailer, catch it below!

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