Witherspoon at Her Best in ‘Wild’

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“From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail…”

As a point of fact, that tease line is taken from the title of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 book, now brought to the screen as the film “Wild.” Starring Reese Witherspoon at her best, the story is not only about her character, the real-life version of whom consulted on the production,and her epic journey on the P-C-T, but of how her pre-trail life,especially after the untimely loss of her mother, spiraled into self-destruction.

Everything about “Wild” exudes genuine-ness: There’s the nuts and bolts of actual trail-life, and the people met along the way….the relationship, seen in flashback, with her mother, played with touching warmth by Laura Dern, and the frustration of Cheryl’s ex-, but still best-friend, sensitively brought off by Thomas Sadowski, recently of HBO’s “The Newsroom” & the film “John Wick.” Also honest and believable is the human-scale cinematography and the soundtrack. The temptation would be to overdo it with sunny mountain-top views and lush meadows, but asanyone who has actually hiked a trail like this knows, those sights are rare compared to latrines and general monotony, often when it is anything but sunny. “Dallas Buyers’ Club” Director Jean-Marc Valee gets this right, but isn’t afraid to hint at the spiritual, with a CGI creature, who appears at distant intervals.

The soundtrack makes extensive use of the Simon & Garfunkel song “El Condor Pasa,” and it works so well you’ll wonder if Paul Simon envisioned its use here when he adapted it over 40 years ago. Redemption stories can be cloying, and the “purification through nature” idea is as old as Henry David Thoreau, but “Wild is neither cloying nor re-treaded. It is understated and powerful story-telling that few films approach.