After a string of personal tragedies and mistakes, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) embarks on a hazardous hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Based on the bestselling memoir, this is not only a compelling story of a 26-year-old woman finding redemption by hiking 1,100 miles in the wilderness, but it’s also Witherspoon’s best work in many years. Right from the start we feel part of her quest thanks to the star’s likability, a sense of humor and the allure of daring to go through with such a physical and emotional challenge. Our bond to Witherspoon’s character only grows stronger as we learn what happened to her in flashbacks that build to a touching finale.
2014-U.S. 115 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Screenplay: Nick Hornby. Book: Cheryl Strayed. Cinematography: Yves Bélanger. Cast: Reese Witherspoon (Cheryl Strayed), Thomas Sadoski (Paul), Laura Dern (Bobbi Lambrecht), Gaby Hoffmann, Michiel Huisman, Kevin Rankin.
Trivia: The real-life daughter of Cheryl plays her as a child in flashbacks.
Last word: “I didn’t prepare [Witherspoon] and she didn’t prepare. That was the whole idea. That was the intent. Just like Cheryl’s experience, there was no preparation. You just find yourself on a trail on the Pacific Crest Trail and you have no experience and let’s see how you do it. I didn’t want her to practice to set up a tent or a stove and she just learned as we were shooting. Again, it was like capturing. It wasn’t staged where I would say ‘Okay Reese, let’s stage the fact that you’re setting up the tent.’ It was just, ‘Reese, set up the tent.’ And it took like 20 minutes. So we shot for 20 minutes, different angles. But she was setting up the tent, wondering how [laughs]. She was up to it. She was up to the challenge of being Cheryl.” (Vallée, AFI)