In 1977 Robyn Davidson trekked 1,700 miles across Australian desserts; she lionized her pilgrimage in “Tracks” a heartfelt, blatantly honest account of her journey; the 2013/14 film starring Mia Wasikowska is prescient in depicting Davidson’s vicissitudes during her seven-month odyssey.
Eighteen years later (1995) Cheryl Strayed, driven by grief and moral turpitude, straps on a hundred -pound backpack, the “Monster” and walks over a three -month period the 1,100 mile Pacific Coast Trail; “Wild” , (starring inimitable Reese Witherspoon) is Strayed’s account of her restorative, cleansing hajj.
After her mother’s premature death (Laura Dern deserves a nod from the Academy for her remarkable performance as “Bobbi”) she sinks into a black hole, sex and drugs contribute to her physical, psychological demise, ruination of her marriage and suicidal, profound despair. Witherspoon worked diligently with Cheryl and director Jean-Marc Vallee to give an eponymous credulity to Strayed’s character; a sublimely subtle performance, stripped of sensationalism and self-pity.
Cheryl’s intelligence and love of literature imbue “Wild” with an insightful, literary flavor; at resting points throughout her trek she leaves quotes from poets, Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost; novelists: Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor and James Michener (her mother’s favorite), including her name as a co-contributor, pilgrim.
Astonishingly, the Robyn’s and Cheryl’s of the world choose goals resonating, informed by masculinity, “Vikings”, explorers; these women are Amazonian in strength and perseverance; recognizing the veracity of Wordsworth’s magnificent poem:
The world it too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours.
Cheryl, with the elimination of the material world, its distractions and temptations; partners with nature, its untainted, pristine, unforgiving landscape and realizes redemption.