Adaptation: Wild

Adaptation is going to be a series that examines the film (and maybe some play) adaptations of some of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) books. **Warning – there will be spoilers if you have yet to read the book or watch the movie!**

When you really love a book, sometimes you are almost loath to see it turn into a movie. Is the director going to have the same vision for the characters? Once you see a movie’s aesthetics, it can irreparably replace your memory and imagination. This is something I think about often, and there are many trailers that I’ll refuse to watch until I’ve read the book first.

At the other end of the spectrum, some movies end up with beautiful images that would have never been possible in a book, or a director may interpret a book in a way that would have never occurred to me. I thought for our first in this little series, I would start with an example of a great adaptation – a movie I loved as much as the book. Without further adieu, I present to you – Wild.


A Quick Summary: A 26 year old Cheryl Strayed’s life is spiraling out of control in the aftermath of her mother’s death. She leaves everything behind to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in hopes of finding herself again.

Top to Bottom: Reese Witherspoon and Cheryl Strayed

Did you read the book or watch the movie first? I watched the movie first. I knew I wanted to watch the movie as soon as I saw that the movie was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee of Dallas Buyers Club fame. I will admit, I heard about the book back in 2012 when it was selected for the Oprah 2.0 book club, but I generally tend to ignore books that Oprah recommends (no offense, Oprah).

How were the book and movie different? The book definitely shed more light and background on Cheryl Strayed’s past. She actually has a stepfather who loved her, but drifted away after the death of her mother, who doesn’t make an appearance in the movie. Cheryl also has the time and space to tell us more about the logistics – how she planned and paid for things, how she dealt with her period every month, etc. But the Pacific Crest Trail is an absolutely breathtaking sight, and the movie is able to make a 1,100 mile hike visually captivating in a way the book is not.

How were the book and movie the same? I think this is because Cheryl Strayed helped write the script, but the movie retains the lyricism of Strayed’s memoir. We see her handwriting and quotes appear (in a very non-cheesy way) throughout the movie, and Reese Witherspoon has voice-overs reading passages from her journals and book. My favorite quotes from the movie are unsurprisingly also my favorite quotes from the book.

Parting Thoughts: I loved the book and movie in different ways. I felt more connected to and related more to Strayed in her book than in the movie, but I loved the scene in the movie where she sees the fox and is convinced it is her mother. This scene is also in the book, but it wasn’t as visceral to read. I think that these are perfect companion pieces for one another. The film isn’t true to the book in the way that the book is a memoir and not 100% true to the facts of a life.

Have you seen and read Wild? Which did you prefer? What are some of your favorite book to film adaptations?

2 thoughts on “Adaptation: Wild

  1. Pingback: Adaptation: Room | Like Bears to Honey

  2. Pingback: Adaptation: The Crucible | Like Bears to Honey

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