I’d wanted to watch Into the Wild for quite some time, and had forgotten it was based on a true story. Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed this mesmerizing feature from 2007. It is rated R for language and some nudity.
In 1990, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) graduates from college and takes off on a solo journey across the United States, rejecting completely his upper class parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden). The story is told through the eyes of his sister, and from his own journal entries writing of his travels. His ultimate goal is to go to Alaska and survive off the land. Alex Supertramp, the name he gives himself after he rejects his former identity, has little need for money. A couple of odd jobs doing hard physical labor please him more than any desk job ever could, one of which is for Wayne Westerberg (Vince Vaughn) who becomes his friend.
His family meanwhile is filled with sorrow at what appears to be his disappearance. Alex, however, knows exactly where he is. He is a thoughtful, deep, spiritual person who reads the likes of Thoreau, Tolstoy and Doctor Zhivago while living the solitary life.
He meets other free spirits along the way, and gives to them just as much as they give to him in return. By this I mean emotionally, a connection of love and genuine caring for each other. Jan Burres (Catherine Keener) and Tracy Tatro (Kristen Stewart) are two in the hippy camp he grows close to, and he becomes friends with an older man, Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook). The relationship between Jan and Alex is like the one neither had with their own son and mother respectively, and a deep father and son respect develop between Ron and Alex as well.
I seem to gravitate toward films depicting real life journeys, the stories of people who set out on their own, shunning civilization and the society that feels like a trap, a prison to be freed from by living in the natural world.
My husband commented that if Alex had not had the resources of a wealthier family, he would not have taken the risks involved in rejecting society and the 9-5 kind of life. I don’t know if I totally agree with that. If you have it in your blood to explore, walk, travel, you just do it. Cheryl Strayed in Wild and Robyn Davidson in Tracks set out on their treks with very few financial resources available to them.
The film’s cinematography is exquisite and visually appealing. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story is put together; going back and forth in time to what preceded Alex’s arrival in Alaska where he is truly alone.
I recommend this film, especially if you are a reader and enjoy beautiful prose. There are many quotes throughout the film from the authors that Alex is reading, and it simply adds to the beautiful story of one man’s quest to be authentic and real.