It's easy to see what attracted Witherspoon to the project. Strayed is a most troubled character – flashbacks show us her unhappy childhood with an abusive father, her formative years living with just her mother and brother, and her promiscuous existence having sex and doing drugs with other men outside her marriage. It paints an effective picture of a woman struggling to make good after a lifetime of unhappiness, and the star is impressively understated in portraying the emotional and psychological torment that takes hold of her at times.
There's a meandering air to the narrative as she makes her way, but it's beautifully shot, giving us good vistas of the country, and the numerous people she meets are played with effortless ease from a characterful bunch of actors, all taking their cue from Witherspoon in never overdoing the dramatics – they are all perfectly believable in not drawing too much attention to themselves. Wild has a natural rhythm to it that is pleasingly laid back, but overall it isn't a patch on Dallas Buyers Club. It's not gripping or compelling enough to be really successful. It boasts many good moments and is never dull, but nor does it draw one in enough to make one properly care.