PUBLISHED 24 AUG 2017
SEAN Penn’s INTO THE WILD (2007) is a true story based on the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) (or as he preferred to be called Alexander Supertramp), a young man, fresh out of college looking to find himself. Not satisfied with his middle-class clichéd life, he donates all his money to charity, cuts up his identification cards and begins a quest: to make it to Alaska. Notably, unlike other coming-of-age stories, Christopher knows what he wants. He wants to escape the material world that surrounds, and has seemingly poisoned, him and his family. So much so, he leaves without saying a word and ultimately disappears.
As we watch Christopher’s story it is impossible not to feel connected to him. We move from aching as he struggles with being homeless to jealousy of him being completely free to do whatever he likes. Importantly, Christopher’s tale does not present an idyllic view, it is incredibly open and truthful about the ordeal he went through. Finding people similar to himself in Jan (Catherine Keener) and Rainey (Brian H Dierker), and becoming close with Vince Vaughan’s farm owner Wayne are high points, not to mention the incredible relationship he builds up with Ron (Oscar nominee Hal Holbrook). Yet, the struggle of being homeless, needing a bed to sleep, needing food to eat adds to the nuance of the film. We go through the motions with him, feeling the ups and downs of the life he has chosen, albeit a life he clearly would not change. It is not until we see him complete his aforementioned quest that we truly see Christopher. Throughout his journey he meets many amazing people, creating experiences to last a lifetime. However, Alaska is where he always wanted to end up, and no one, no matter what they said, could convince him otherwise.
Even with the bleakest of endings, INTO THE WILD and Christopher's journey is inspirational to watch. While drastic in the steps he took, his will power to change his life and to take that leap of faith is awakening. The film does not glorify travelling as a way of life; in the case of Christopher it is tragic, his lack of experience and training means that achieving his goal becomes deadly. Yet, the lesson of “happiness is only real when shared” becomes incredibly pertinent. This is a sentiment to live by, no matter if you wish to be an eternal nomad, temporary traveller or simply settled.
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