I hadn’t read the memoir by Cheryl Strayed and had no idea what to expect, other than her mother dies and Strayed hikes the Pacific Crest Trail.
Reese Witherspoon is magnificent as the twenty-something Strayed. She is so convincing in the part that I came away almost believing the movie is her biography. On the other hand, I’m acutely aware that this story, told with brutal, heart wrenching honesty, is indeed about Cheryl Strayed.
As I finished the words “told with brutal, heart wrenching honesty” just now, tears sprang to my eyes. That’s how it is. I can’t begin to talk about this movie without crying (just ask my patient husband, who listens daily as I try to make sense of why this story seems have taken residence in my psyche).
I watched Witherspoon and her mother on 60 Minutes recently. They both said that Cheryl Strayed’s story is Reese’s mother’s story. In the interview, Witherspoon recalls that her grandmother died young and that as a child, she watched her own mother’s grief over the loss.
I could say that this is my story as well, which is crazy. My mother didn’t die young. And I’m still alive, although my daughter isn’t. I am not Laura Dern’s beautifully rendered character and my daughter Crista isn’t Witherspoon’s Strayed.
One reason for my deep resonance with a tale that doesn’t reflect my own may be this. There may be a magical, mystical thread, like gossamer, that wends its way through the hearts of all mothers and daughters, a thread that cannot be broken, a thread that reaches through ancient times into infinity. In this way, we’re all united—facets of love, parts of the whole. We can’t help but relate with one another. Maybe that’s what’s happening to me.
I am so grateful to Cheryl Strayed for having the courage to tell the unvarnished truth about this portion of her life, and to Reese Witherspoon for her integrity in bringing Strayed’s story to the screen. I can’t help but believe that WILD will continue to affect me deeply for years to come.