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Cinema in Focus: ‘Wild’

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

Everyone has regrets in life, but sometimes it takes a lifetime to understand what causes you to make bad choices in the first place. We are conditioned by parents, schools, friends and society to believe certain things will make us happy, but they can easily turn out in the end to be false promises.

Wild is the true to life experience of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), who wrote Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail about her own 1,100-mile trek to redemption.

After a series of devastating personal losses left her emotionally reeling, Cheryl made a decision that would seem foolhardy on the surface. Without any preparation, she bought some camping gear and set out on her own to walk from Southern California to Washington. What she found along the way was herself.

Cheryl grew up in a single-parent household with her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) and her brother. Her mother was a free spirit who married a man who was an abuser in every sense of the word. Freeing herself from him, Bobbi lived in her own fantasy world of happiness and taught her daughter that the world would be filled with love if she would just be open to it. Unfortunately, an open door to the world can also let in a lot of dirt.

By the time Cheryl was in her 20s, she had cheated on her husband numerous times, didn’t know who the father of her baby was, and was taking heroin. The only person who she knew loved her was her mom, and then even she disappeared when cancer took her life at an early age. Facing these losses, Cheryl was forced to look in the mirror and see who she really was. Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll turned out to be the ultimate delusion to everyone of her generation.

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail may not be the wisest or safest way to find yourself, but sometimes God works in mysterious ways. We won’t spoil the stories of adventure she had along the way, but needless to say not everyone has altruistic motives when they greet you in the woods.

When Cheryl reaches the bridge over a river in the Northwest that was her goal, she is a changed woman. Did she have some great epiphany? It doesn’t appear so. Did she encounter God? We don’t know. We do know that in a reflection on her life nine years later, married with two kids, the Pacific Crest Trail provided her with a new way to see the world for what it really is.

Sometimes guilt brings you to a place where you want to run and hide. When we reach a point in life where we can see our true selves and recognize that bad choices have real-life consequences, it is at that point where our authentic life can begin. Living a fulfilled life doesn’t begin when we own things, but only when we give things up. The first to go is our own ego-driven sense of wisdom. It fulfills the old adage: “Wisdom comes from experience, and experience comes from the lack of wisdom.”

Discussion

» In your own journey toward self-knowledge, what helped you discover your true identity? Were others involved in this discovery of self, or was it in times of isolation or solitude?

» Guilt can wall us away from the joys that surround us. How have you found forgiveness? How have you come to be able to forgive yourself?

» Many have found that being in God’s creation puts them in touch with a higher sense of life, meaning and purpose. Has this been true for you? Did this “natural revelation” lead you to seek the “special revelation” provided by God in His Word, the Bible?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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