Wild

This contemplative adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir—about her grueling, three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, following a bitter divorce and her mother’s untimely death—is the most serious work to date from director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), a feel-good story that avoids sentimentality. The film isn’t exactly subtle: as Strayed, Reese Witherspoon shoulders a massive backpack that symbolizes the character’s emotional baggage, and screenwriter Nick Hornby resorts to abrupt flashbacks and interior monologues to depict Strayed’s struggles with drug addiction and depression. But these become less frequent and jarring the further she travels, and as the locale gradually shifts from the California desert to the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest, the sense of transformation is overpowering. With Laura Dern.