At the other extreme, emotions are like raw nerve endings. People over here may appear dangerous to those at the subdued end of the spectrum. Aware of their emotions, they have learned to let them out. Sometimes appropriately... sometimes not. There's a wildness about them as they come to terms with the wounds and scars that made them who they are. But sometimes the journey to healing requires an amount of savagery.
If at first, the title seems to refer to California's desolate backcountry, it soon becomes apparent that "wild" has at least as much to do with Strayed as it does with the howling coyotes, rugged peaks, and icy streams she encounters on her way. Through flashbacks and brief confessions that appear iteratively in the film, the reason for her PCT trek becomes clear. Without spoiling the story, it is enough to say that many of us can point to persons we know who reacted to trauma by lashing out in erratic behavior for a period. If Wild offers us anything, it is a message of hope that we should not give up on anyone, no matter how lost they might seem.
Wild is deeply philosophical, though that may not become clear until the final monologue:
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done?... What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?"
With these questions, Wild offers a way to redeem past mistakes. Our choices make us who we are, and sometimes wholeness only emerges after painful trials. All things may indeed work together for good, even our destructive choices.
Wild also offers insight into the female experience, as Strayed faces unwelcome advances from a chauvinist park ranger, is stalked by a lewd hunter, and as her mother struggles to perform traditionally female roles in the household while attending college .