A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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).
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Frequent strong language: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole, and religious exclamations ("Jesus Christ").
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.