The story of Cheryl Strayed (an unadorned Reese Witherspoon) and her attempt to, in her words, "walk myself back to the way I was." The path to the past runs 1,100 miles or so along the Pacific Crest Trail. Walking is slow business. To break the monotony, director Jean-Mark Vallee (Dallas Buyer's Club) tosses in encounters with other hikers, rednecks, bikers, Deadheads, and even an amazed journalist from the Hobo Times. He also doles out an artful array of flashbacks to help you understand just what Strayed is running, er, hiking from. (Mostly, it has to do with Mom, played with great, vulnerable appeal by Laura Dern.) Alas, this is a journey that ends, not because it reaches some actual dramatic resolution, but because the author (the real-life Strayed wrote the memoir that serves as source material) tells you she's done. We know she's different, not because of anything in particular that's happened, but because she says so. Strayed comes across as a real person, Witherspoon is a real actor, and the film is a real showcase. But you may wind up wishing for more to change than the scenery. (2014) — Matthew Lickona
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