I saw the 2007 movie, Into the Wild, this past weekend. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of true stories about things I would never attempt myself, and as I was going through the movies playing On Demand, I recalled a point in the Aaron Ralston book where he mentioned being inspired by the story of Christopher McCandless, the protagonist in Into the Wild. So I got comfortable, ordered in sushi, and hit Buy on my remote. Ironically, the movie was listed in the Summer Reading section of my guide; books I could never seem to get through when they were required reading. These days I'm pretty sure three quarters of my books would qualify.
The movie is about a kid who graduates college and almost immediately after the big day, donates his life savings to Oxfam, gets rid of almost all his worldly possessions, and takes off to travel across the country with little to no plan. After assuming a new name, "Alex Supertramp", Chris begins his journey, making pit stops along the way to earn enough cash to get him to his next destination, and making connections with people that he meets.
The relationships Chris makes are actually one of the most poignant parts of the film. Though what we see is just a snippet of what had to have been a huge experience, the connections we do see are intense, and viable. People seem to be attracted to this kid everywhere he goes, and while he is living on the cusp of society where people are not as integrated and harried as they would be in a city setting, the generosity and friendliness of the folks he meets along the way is spellbinding. It's these relationships that make this story so interesting, since Chris's ultimate goal is to venture to Alaska and live alone, in the wild. The irony of this piece was not lost on me as I watched the film.
I wanted to like Chris as much as the people he met along the way. I wanted to feel about him the way I felt about Aaron Ralston. I wanted to root for him. But the fact that he just disappeared from his life after graduating and never once told his family where he was going or what he was doing, and showed no regret over this, just really broke my heart. His family was somewhat dysfunctional, putting him pretty much on par with almost everyone living in America so the sympathy card, notsomuch. I think Chris thought of himself as a victim of his well-off but sort of impaired family, and disappearing was his way of saying screw you. As a mother, no part of me thinks it's ok to fall off the face of the earth for two days, let alone two years. This was on my mind the whole time.
But this fact didn't take away from how interesting Chris's journey was.
It takes about two years of traipsing through Arizona, California, and South Dakota, before he finally makes his way into the wild in Alaska. Dropped off by a a local whom he'd befriended on his journey, Chris begins his trek at the head of the Stampede Trail. Before long, he stumbles on an abandoned old bus and it becomes home for the next 113 days. Unprepared and with few supplies, Chris eventually starves to death (since this is a true story, this isn't a spoiler).
The movie was riveting. There's no doubt that Chris's charisma and likable personality got him across the country on almost nothing. But what really intrigued me was the fact that this charismatic, personable young guy not only sought aloneness, he craved it so badly that he trekked all the way from Georgia to Alaska to find solitude. I kept thinking to myself, what is he going to do in the Alaskan wild? How will he pass his days? He didn't seem to have goals of hiking or hunting for sport (Ralston was/is an avid adventurer) so I couldn't imagine how he would pass the hours. I can't even go for a run without a distraction like my iPod, so while I am a person who values solitude, I can't relate to Chris's singular goal of being totally alone to survive, or not, the elements in the Alaskan bush.
I haven't yet read the book that inspired this movie but I'm certain I have it buried somewhere in my basement. Until then, I urge you to watch the movie and I'd be curious to hear from others who have seen it as well.