Rated 4.0

Reese Witherspoon delivers a tough, smart performance in what for her is a somewhat atypical role. Jean-Marc Vallée’s film version of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her transformative adventure in the wilderness holds her star power at something like arm’s length and builds a close-up sense of its protagonist through a combination of cinematic elements, including flashes of a kind of stream-of-consciousness editing. Even in the occasional emotional eruption, Witherspoon maintains a calm intensity, and Vallée’s film matches that with the cool, rough beauty of its cinematography. Here the central characterization is a matter not only of what she says and does and sees, but also of the tentatively implied insights of those memory flashes and other fleeting associations. Much of the film is a straight-ahead account of the physical challenges of Cheryl’s arduous journey, with her spiritual revitalization portrayed partly through the cumulative effect of small, quietly telling moments and partly through deceptively casual gradations in Witherspoon’s performance. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R