Reese Witherspoon’s Wild Soul: A Look Back at the Film
At the age of 26, Cheryl Strayed was struggling to cope with the loss of her mother, who had been the most important person in her life. She started taking drugs to escape the pain, but eventually realized that nothing helped. On an impulse, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada, a path of over a thousand kilometers that tested her resilience. The experience became the subject of her memoir, Wild, which spent over 83 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Reese Witherspoon, in her early days as a producer, took on the project and starred in the 2014 film adaptation, Wild Soul, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Witherspoon’s commitment to the material, which was out of her comfort zone, helped her deliver a stripped-down performance that earned her an Oscar nomination.
Playing Strayed was a challenging experience for Witherspoon, who had to film sex scenes and portray the use of heroin to suppress pain. She called Strayed to raise her doubts about the scenes, but was encouraged to truly commit to the essence of the tale. Witherspoon underwent hypnosis to deal with the fear of not living up to the requirements and suffered panic attacks before filming began. However, the experience changed her completely and transformed her mind.
Vallée, who also directed Big Little Lies, was responsible for the naturalistic style of Wild Soul and made sure that every detail of Witherspoon’s appearance reflected Strayed’s experience. The filmmaker died suddenly on December 25, 2021, at his cabin on the outskirts of Quebec City, leaving behind a great camaraderie with the Wild Soul team.
In conclusion, Wild Soul is a testament to the power of cinema to capture the essence of memoirs and bring them to life. Witherspoon’s performance and Vallée’s direction make the film a must-watch for anyone looking for a raw and honest portrayal of life’s struggles.