Director: Sean Penn
Year Released: 2007
Bloated adaptation of the Jon Krakauer book about Emory University grad Chris McCandless (played here by Emile Hirsch) and his decision to give up money and security to live outdoors - travelling place to place and working odd jobs only when he needed to - until he died alone in his own van in Denali National Park. Though I haven't read Krakauer's novel - I was aware of the story for a long time, however - and am not sure how it reads, Penn's version is one of adoration, turning this promising young man's life into some kind of spiritual journey, when in all actually it was nothing of the sort: death by starvation is a horrible way to go - my Great Uncle died that way - and what he really did was commit an extended type of suicide, which isn't noble in any way. The scenery is lovely, but the film is meandering, indulgent and plays the convenient game of blaming Mom and Dad (it shows them fighting and arguing), only really coming to its senses when Hal Holbrook arrives and tries to adopt the McCandless character - Holbrook is one of the only figures in the picture that senses something is deeply wrong with the scraggly wanderer. McCandless, full of vigor, was too young to realize that retreating from the world isn't the way to change it - you have to engage it - and when he said he headed 'into the wild' in search of "the truth," he never realized (he was probably too young to realize) that his rejection of modernity is just another lie.