Cast: Emile Hirsch plays Christopher Johnson McCandless, who decides to get away from the economic driven society to live a life in the wilderness of Alaska. On his journey to what he thinks is the ultimate lifestyle of how man should live, Christopher encounters several people. Christopher encounters two hippies who take him under their wings, feed him and let him have a place to stay for a bit. Even upon having a potential relationship with a young singer (Kristen Stewart), Christopher remains true to only wanting a relationship with himself. Hal Holbrook plays Ron Franz, a senior, who is one of the last people to try to convince Christopher to stay closer to society. Hal’s performance was one that leaves such an impression in being the last potential link for love and acceptance that Christopher could have had.
Basic movie facts: Sean Penn directed this movie and really did a good job in transporting one into a journey of a young man who was trying to find himself, but in the wrong way. Some may say this movie does glamorize adventures by going at it by yourself, but there is also a danger in not having common sense when you do it. This movie is based on a book written by Jon Krakauer about McCandless. Upon writing this book, author Jon Krakauer did research in tracing Christopher’s journey. There was debate in how or what caused the demise of Christopher as there were theories put forth by the author, medical examiners and plant specialists.
Pros: This movie was beautifully told and makes one think about life in general and how to pursue what makes you happy. This movie also shows that common sense is needed when one is deciding to live off the land without any help and clearly shows some risks one may have to take upon doing this. The characters Christopher meets along the way are delightful, loving and accepting towards him. A theme of forgiveness and wanting to be accepted is intertwined throughout the movie. I enjoyed reading the personal journal entries that the movie showed in the beginning and throughout the movie. I had never heard of Emile, so it was a beautiful experience watching him act. He’s beautiful, have mercy. I need to hunt down more movies he’s in.
Cons: I found it irritating how in the movie Christopher meets all these sweet people who have nothing but love to show him, yet he finds a way to push them away. Well, that one man beat him when he caught Christopher in the train illegally. Christopher made an impact in their lives because they allowed him to. His stories and personality made these characters look within themselves, yet when they tried to share a part of their lives with him, he was hellbent in not wanting to accept it. From a professional point of view (in dealing with clients), when a person is deprived of love or acceptance from an early stage, this carries on to adulthood. Needing, wanting love and acceptance is hard, even if it’s handed to you. Some people overcome this and go on to having happy and healthy relationships and contacts with people. Christopher had made up his mind about not needing any type of relationship with anyone, except himself. The mind, body and soul is not meant to be completely alone. There is a part of the brain which needs a certain chemical release of positive hormones that help keep you happy, healthy and strong physically. Once a person decides this is the kind of life they want to live, they have a safe wall they live behind which makes it impossible to ever get through. Christopher was portrayed sweet, kind and childlike, yet there was this unattachment I observed in him as he talked to people in the movie. Realistically, just because one wants to live off the land, does not mean it will be easy on the body. People who are born and bred in Alaska know the land and their bodies have adapted to it since birth. It takes a gradual process to acclimate one’s body to the land and doing so, it should not be done within a year in such a drastic way that Christopher did. If people want to live on their own for a month or two, go ahead. Just be careful.
I would have preferred if there weren’t any noticeable movie stars in this movie because it only made me snap back to reality of their huge paychecks and mansions. It took some authenticity away from the story; nothing against the actors, but this is the kind that needs to be filmed with unknown actors so your mind is pure with their characters.
Cinematography: Eric Gautier is the director of photography in this movie. Almost every scene looks like a living art form of a National Geographic picture and believe me when I say that because I grew up reading National Geographic magazines and I have a personal friend who worked as a National Geographic Photographer for 20 years, so I am highly familiar with those types of photographs. I was highly impressed by how in the beginning of the movie, you don’t see Christopher’s face right away, but the land and how it compares to how small he is to it. There were a lot of zoom in and outs with the camera regarding the land, which I appreciated, to see beauty in the unforgiving yet beautiful landscape. To see a comparable movie with similar shots of this movie, go see “Motorcycle Diaries (2004)”.
Music score: Eddie Vedder’s (from Pearl Jam) used his talents to compose several songs in the movie. Here is an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y9vzYDaKRY. Was that a Roger Miller song “King of the Road” during that late night train scene? If so, I really liked it a lot.
Favorite quote: Ron Franz-When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you.
Audience reaction: I had seen this movie 3 times. This is a movie I can only watch once a year because it takes a while to digest in my mental thinking because of the way Christopher thought.
Relatability: Nature is a seducing and enticing figure to our imagination. Living a healthy life within her is good for the heart, body and soul. I love being in nature, I love hearing the sounds it brings…I feel so connected and focused. But. I also know I need supportive and loving people in my life at the end of the day.
What were some of your thoughts about this movie? Did you like it? Do you agree with what Christopher did and how he lived?