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Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

How do you follow a film like Dallas Buyers Club? A film that is so muscular and brash that it screamed success. Well in the case of Wild with a formula incredibly similar – true story, huge star and a lot emotional heft. Yet Wild is startlingly more subtle even if at times it seems it isn’t. 

Jean-Marc Vallée doesn’t get enough credit for his films, he is often eclipsed by his actors and in the case of Wild, Reece Witherspoon’s production credit does scream star vehicle rather than genuine film made for the sake of making a film. He directs with a simple honesty, flourishes of flare do occur but surprisingly for the type of films he directs he is concerned with the really ugly sides of life: sex, drugs, relationships and death are presented with a griminess that is sometimes unsettling. Both Dallas Buyers Club and Wild have moments where they make their audience feel genuinely uncomfortable and that is really refreshing in this sanitised hollywood world.

There are things that won’t work for everyone, it will be too indulgent for some and it isn’t anywhere near as boisterously memorable as Dallas Buyers, but Wild sits in an interesting place between subtle and really unsubtle. Witherspoon is a terrifically charismatic actor who oozes likeability, and her scenes with the wonderful Laura Dern press all the right buttons. There are obviously the big money shots for the academy but for a lot of this Witherspoon is pretty understated, and manages brilliantly to convey the weight of the physical challenge as well as the emotional one.

The main issue is whether you’ll personally buy this tale of redemption, I did and because of that it was a really rewarding cinematic experience.