Sometimes life can be overwhelming and stressful; my remedy is to always have a backpack filled with the essentials nearby, and a pair of sturdy walking boots that can defeat any form of weather, something I can walk in until I can walk no more. Here is a small handful of the best backpacking films out there, where characters go through an adventure a tad more extreme than mine:
3. The Way (2010)
“You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.”
Featuring two of the less controversial members of the Sheen-Estevez family, Emilio Estevez writes, directs and stars as Daniel Avery, a forty-something who gives up his comfortable life in California to travel to the Pyrenees, aiming to walk the Camino de Santiago across France and Spain. However, when Daniel is killed during a storm, his father, Tom Avery (Martin Sheen), travels across the pond to recover his body.
What ensues next is a simple yet effective film: a bereaved Tom decides to honour Daniel’s memory by completing the Camino de Santiago. Tom scatters Daniel’s ashes throughout the journey and is reluctant to socialise, but finds himself becoming friends with jolly Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) and a struggling writer called Jack (James Nesbitt, in a perhaps misplaced role). The Way is predictable but Emilio Esteves excels as he slowly peels away the reasons why the four want to complete the Camino de Santiago.
2. Tracks (2013)
“When people ask me why I’m doing it, my usual answer is why not?”
What I appreciate about this biopic of Australian adventurer Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) is that no horrible tragedy or catastrophe occurs. As Robyn treks across the Outback, I was determined during my first viewing that she would be tragically attacked by dingos. Thankfully, no such thing happened.
In 1977, twenty-seven year old Robyn set off from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with the only company being four camels and her faithful dog, Diggity. Her journey took a total distance of 1,700 miles across one of the most harshest and dangerous deserts in the world. Reluctantly, she is occasionally joined by National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), and when a potential romance beckons between the two, Robyn bats the romance away. The film doesn’t pry too much into why Robyn wants to do the trip, it simply is a portrait of a young woman who wants to be alone. John Curran directs and he successfully captures the splendid vast landscape of the Australian Outback. Throughout Tracks there are many nods to the acclaimed 1971 film Walkabout which saw a young Jenny Agutter stranded in the Outback, on a quest to return to civilisation.
1. Wild (2014)
“I’m lonelier in my real life than I am out here.”
The leading actresses of this biopic, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, were narrowly beaten by Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette at the 2015 Academy Awards. Here, Witherspoon in particular delivers a powerful performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who undertakes the Pacific Crest Trail.
What makes Wild my favourite backpacking film is how the story is told. In 1995, after years of reckless behaviour, a divorce and the death of her beloved mother (fantastically portrayed by Laura Dern), Cheryl Strayed, who is vastly underqualified for such a hike, attempts to hike 1,100 miles from the Mojave desert in Southern California to the Bridge of Gods in Oregon. As Cheryl hikes, little things like a fox reminds her of her life and most importantly, the mistakes that she has made. Jean-Marc Vallée beautifully directs as he skilfully blends her flashbacks with the present, and Witherspoon provides poignant voice-overs that range from hilarious to upsetting.
What are your favourite backpacking films?
Comment with your thoughts.