El Condor Pasa – ★★★★
Walk if off, as the saying goes and Cheryl Strayed did just that when she undertook the Pacific Crest trail, spanning from the Mexican to the Canadian border – 1,100 miles all told. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl on this physical, emotional and spiritual journey. Adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby from Cheryl’s own novel of the same name, Wild is an uplifting and honest look at the trials and tribulations of a women trying to get her life back in motion.
The film starts with the preparation for the hike and we follow on foot with Cheryl as she realises just how hard the trek will be having no previous experience. The film then inter-cuts with her past and the reasons for her need to embark on the trail. Laura Dern plays her mother and is fantastically cast as the eternally optimistic maternal force, regardless of the shitty hand she gets dealt in life.
Witherspoon seems to have found her perfect role, she must go through a raft of incarnations of the same character, goody two shoes, junkie, drop out, inspirational motivator and more besides. It calls to mind the Dylan Moran sketch about how being a woman is a series of masks falling to the floor while men have one hand on their knob, one up their nose and get taller. She perfectly encapsulates the feeling of guilt from letting ones parents down or failing to live up to whatever pre-conceived notion society wants you to fulfill.
This is Jean-Marc Vallee’s directorial follow-up to last years Dallas Buyers Club so he’s having quite the run. He is a dab hand at bringing out the inner turmoil of humans and turning simple stories into universal and all encompassing tales. A soundtrack that is peppered throughout with the Simon and Garfunkel number “El Condor Pasa” and more favourites tie the film together allowing us to become totally immersed in Cheryl’s world.
Minor quibbles about how many of the men in the film (except an ex-husband) seem to be potential rapists and some silliness with a fox do little to take away from an excellent story. This is the perfect January film to make you take stock and sort your life out, or maybe just go for a nice walk in the woods.
Released in Ireland on January 16th 2015
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