Wild

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Wild Movie Poster Image
Emotional tale of self-discovery explores grief, addiction.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 115 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Overarching messages are that people can get themselves out of spirals of self-destruction, that it's important to ask for and accept help when you need it, and that trips can be transformative catalysts for self discovery and change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cheryl's mom, Bobbi, is idealized; she's intelligent, sensitive, and supportive. She encourages Cheryl to be the best she can be and to find beauty and happiness in life's simple pleasures. Even though she was the victim of domestic abuse, Bobbi focuses on the positive. Cheryl spirals out of control after her mother dies, cheating on a loving husband, sleeping with men who don't care about her, and ultimately becoming a junkie. But by the end of the film, it's clear that Cheryl is ready to move forward and change.

Violence

Domestic abuse, close-up of dead mother, two characters must shoot a sick horse, a hunter creepily comes on to Cheryl and makes inappropriate sexual comments, Cheryl injures herself during the hike. Cheryl hitchhikes a lot and is frightened of a man with a gun in his glove compartment (he's ultimately harmless).

Sex

Cheryl's breasts are visible in sex scenes and right out of the shower as she examines her hiking injuries. She has casual sex with several men (both while married and during the hiking trip).

Language

Frequent strong language: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole, and religious exclamations ("Jesus Christ").

Consumerism

REI, Danner boots, Clif bars, Snapple.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke, snort, and inject heroin. Characters drink (once straight from the bottle) in several scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wild is based on Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir about the cathartic three and a half months she spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Starring Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, the movie is part journey of self discovery and part flashback to the good, the bad, and the ugly in Strayed's past, particularly the self-destructive behavior that followed the death of her beloved mother. The mature content includes partial nudity (both sexual and matter-of-fact), several sex scenes (most of which are extramarital), explicit drug use (heroin), and strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more). The heavy themes (domestic abuse, grief, addiction, abortion, etc.) might prove too much for many adolescents, but the movie does offer various subjects for parents to discuss with mature older teens: the importance of parent-child relationships, signs of unhealthy behavior, and the life-changing power of a monumental trip.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4, 8, and 12 year old Written bythesmartwealthymom February 18, 2015

Wild: Emotional, Gripping but not for Kids

Wild was gripping, emotional and entertaining. Date night with my hunny. Reese Witherspoon is perfection! Just kinda slow and confusing! Not for kids in my ENTI... Continue reading
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 December 21, 2014

Witherspoon's "Wild" is simply wonderful

This is Reese Witherspoon like you've rarely seen her: mostly makeup free, covered with raw bruises and scrapes from her backpacking hike, and a fierce det... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byChristopherGraham February 2, 2015

"Wild" by Christopher Graham

This is a film that is powerfully moving and emotionally resonant. This film stars Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, and Gaby Hoffman. In 1995, Che... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byagogirl1 January 10, 2015
My grandmother took me to see this, thinking it was PG-13. While I think it was a little intense, but not too bad for me to watch, I know other teens who would... Continue reading

What's the story?

Like the memoir on which it's based, WILD is a touching exploration of a woman's life-changing 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. In her mid-20s and in a state of crisis, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) sees a PCT guidebook while shopping for pregnancy tests in a pharmacy. Once her divorce is final, she's off heroin, and she's aborted an unplanned pregnancy, Cheryl decides to pack an oversized backpack with newly purchased camping gear and hike 1,000 miles of the trail. Her goal? To once again become the woman that her dearly departed mother (Laura Dern) raised her to become, rather than the shell of a person she'd become. During her solo trek, Cheryl reflects on her past, both the good (her beautiful mother and Cheryl's faithful and long-suffering ex-husband) and the bad (her mother's death, Cheryl's string of affairs and subsequent drug abuse). Although she encounters others on and off the trail, the movie, even more than the book, focuses on Cheryl battling her demons with every labored step.

Is it any good?

Wild isn't a movie for anyone who hates stories of how hitting the road, climbing a mountain, or setting off for an adventure can lift the spirit and cleanse the soul. Because that's what this movie is about -- a woman with lots of emotional baggage who doesn't know a thing about serious trekking but manages to go from greenhorn to seasoned queen of the PCT. Witherspoon isn't really known as a gritty actress, so many worried that she'd be miscast as Cheryl (at least the Cheryl in flashbacks who has casual hook-ups and shoots up drugs), but it's clear she was all in for this performance, baring her body and giving every scene her best. Witherspoon humanizes a character who, on the page, can seem overwhelmingly selfish and unlikable. On screen, Witherspoon's nuanced portrayal is touching, especially when she shares scenes with Dern, who's only nine years older than Witherspoon but convincingly plays her young survivor of a mother. Dern's performance is heartbreakingly beautiful (just like in The Fault in Her Stars). Bobbi is what makes viewers believe that Cheryl has the power to be extraordinary.

In addition to the acting, the movie benefits from gorgeous visuals of the PCT, with sweeping vistas that will make even those who avoid going outdoors understand how experiencing nature on your own can and will change you forever. Director Jean-Marc Vallee doesn't shy away from the harsh obstacles Cheryl must overcome, physically and emotionally; by the end of the movie, you still may not love her, but you can't help believing in her power to rise out of the darkness and into the light.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of stories about journeys of self-discovery. How is this one different? What does Cheryl learn on her trip?

  • What's Wild's message? Why do you think Cheryl says that she doesn't regret anything she's done or that's happened to her?

  • Discuss Cheryl's romantic and sexual relationships; are any of them healthy? Is her promiscuity portrayed as a problem, an understandable response to grief, or an expression of her sexuality?

  • Does the movie make you interested in reading the book? For parents (or teens) who've already read it, discuss some of the changes and omissions from page to screen.

Movie details

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