Posted by Ken Burke On December - 14 - 2014 0 Comment

118484_galBack in 1995 a woman named Cheryl Strayed was at her wits’ end even though she was only 26: She was already divorced; she’d fallen in very deeply to alcoholism, heroin use, and any available sex; plus, her mother, who’d been a lifelong source of comfort and support after they left her abusive Dad, died from cancer in her early 40s leaving Cheryl with no sense of direction nor purpose, despite her college education and ability as a writer (you get a better sense of these latter aspects from the Internet than from the film).  So, with little experience in long-range hiking she filled up a huge backpack (so much so that she had to sit to get into it, then crawl into a standing position—which does generate some humor despite the grim context that it occurs in) and set out on her own to walk the Pacific Crest Trail which wanders from Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington into Canada (she very impressively covered about half of that distance, around 1,100 miles from the Mojave Desert to the Columbia River Bridge of the Gods into Washington over about a 3-month period).  In that you can easily visit Strayed’s website, read the book she wrote about her journey, and find interviews with her from many sources, there’s no surprise ending nor 127 Hours extreme situations here, just a marvelously well-acted, strenuous test of endurance from star/producer Reese Witherspoon in showing successfully what a troubled individual can accomplish even when the obstacles—snakes (both reptile and human male variety), sun, snow, too-tight hiking boots, lack of food and water—are extremely daunting.  Life is rarely a smooth stroll for any of us, so Wild’s very powerful in giving us motivation to face our own demons through some personal, seemingly-impossible challenge.  You know that Cheryl made it to the end of her intended road, but cheering her on to get there is an enjoyable, spirit-lifting delight with Wild.

125765_galOn the other hand, your spirit may be completely stolen if you should happen upon The Girl (the only name we get for her, and that’s just in the credits) while you’re wandering the lonely nighttime streets of Bad City in somewhere-desolate Iran (actually Taft, CA—near Bakersfield but not so terribly far from the Mojave Desert in case you want to take a trek with Cheryl to get away from the possible bad news in Bad City).  Actually, The Girl seems like she just wants to have fun (certainly the many pop culture artifacts in her home indicate that)—what young-adult vampire doesn’t?—but there are those necessary blood feedings to take care of, which sometimes are visited upon the worst inhabitants of this desolate oil-dominated town in a seeming revenge mode but also may just land on the nearest throat of a random stranger.  This doesn’t keep her from being attractive, though, especially to the male protagonist here, a sort of Marlon Brando-James Dean wannabe, whose come-ons are rejected, seemingly because even with a brooding face, a classic T-Bird, and a willingness to get the hell out of this dump he presents The Girl with a moral dilemma of having to explain her heritage if he takes her home for dinner to meet his parents (actually, just his angry, wasted mess of a father, and speaking of dinner … well, you might just want to see it for yourself).  We get no complicated background explanations here as to whether The Girl’s been in Bad City for a long time, is a recent convert to vampirism herself, or what, nor is there a lot of cluttering dialogue here, just some marvelous widescreen black-and-white cinematography, some very intriguingly unusual situations, and the great hope that we’ll soon be seeing more from new director Ana Lily Amipour—although you may have to seek out A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night on video or streaming because if it’s already not weird enough to avoid being booked in most mainstream movie houses it’s also shot in Farsi so most of us will have the added task (an anti-American one, to judge by our collective reading-while-viewing resistance toward foreign-language films) of following subtitles.  I encourage you to make the effort, though; I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

You can read my detailed reviews of both of these films, after which comments of any sort may be left here, at the review blog site, at LinkedIn’s Movie Addicts or World Cinema Critics discussions, or sent directly to me at kenburke409@gmail.com.

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