Many books are made into movies, but most movies aren’t very good. Movies are hard to make, period. Even with a great book (Wild is based on the memoir of the same name) it’s hard to transfer what makes the book great into a different medium.
For any writer, or reader interested in memoir and storytelling, I recommend going to watch Wild, staring Reese Witherspoon. Here’s why:
- It’s a film told from a woman’s perspective. Half our species are women, despite how rarely they are central, or even peripheral (see Bechdel test) to the plots of films. And despite the ads for the movie, the protagonist is not simply a “confused young person on a journey”. She’s well portrayed as a smart, passionate, creative, sexual and more than anything, interesting as a person. There is a fully realized human being at the film’s center – how often can you say that about any book or film?
- Visual memory as storytelling. I won’t go into detail which might ruin your experience, but the film bets on a very different way to explain the main character’s thoughts and memories. The approach they take is closer to the actual experience of memory and thought, as best we understand it today through science (and through art). Even if you don’t like it, it’s brave and unusual for a major film to use this approach.
- Non-traditional story arc. The word verisimilitude means the appearance of being true or real, and the shape of the narrative of the film is unusual, but possibly more realistic in how we experience and tell stories. As a film that centers on a long hike there are many easy cliches to fall into, and Hollywood travel films often gleefully jump into them. The construction of the story itself is more challenging than I expected and I appreciated this while watching the film, and even more so, after it was over.
I read many memoirs and wrote one recently – if you’re interested in personal non-fiction, even as a reader, you should see the film. I haven’t read the book itself, so can’t comment on how they compare.