Westport News film critic Susan Granger reviews the new movie, "Wild:"

Reese Witherspoon has a lock on an Academy Award Best Actress nomination, delivering her most fearless performance since she won an Oscar for "Walk the Line."

This adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir follows the author's grueling 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert near the Mexican border to the mountains of Oregon and Washington. Determined to leave behind the drug abuse and sex addiction that torpedoed her marriage following the death of her mother, Cheryl (Witherspoon) embarks on her own cathartic walkabout.

Weighed down by an overstuffed backpack and too-small hiking boots, woefully unprepared Cheryl trudges into the wilderness, resisting relentless urges to give up. Frequent, non-linear flashbacks fuel her determination, particularly emotional memories of her spunky, ever-optimistic mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern), who walked out on an abusive husband to raise Cheryl and her younger brother by herself, only to succumb to lung cancer at the age of 45.

Adapting Cheryl Strayed's "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," author/screenwriter Nick Hornsby ("About a Boy," "An Education") and director Jean-Marc Valee ("Dallas Buyers Club," "The Young Victoria") deliver an emotionally volatile character study, augmented by colorful supporting characters, evocative imagery and magnificent vistas. Using only available light, "Wild" was filmed outside by cinematographer Yves Belanger, capturing amazing sunrises and vivid sunsets, while dropping unabashed plugs for REI camping supplier and Snapple.

After flops like "This Means War" and "How Do You Know," Witherspoon was floundering in a rom-com crevasse. So her company, Pacific Standard, started investing in properties with strong female roles. Her first hit as a producer was "Gone Girl," in which she hoped to play the lead until director David Fincher decided on Rosamund Pike. Then came "Wild." Now, Witherspoon's working on Kimberly McCreight's "The Outliers" about people with unusual powers and M.A. Larson's "Pennyroyals' Princess Boot Camp" about warrior princesses.

FYI: Laura Dern is actually only nine years older than Reese Witherspoon.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Wild" is a compassionate 7, an arduous, stream-of-consciousness journey of self-discovery.

- For more about movies and theater, check the website: www.susangranger.com.