Cheryl Strayed's mother dies and Cheryl goes to pieces with the scuzzy men and the drugs. She picks up a book- not that book- but a guide to The Pacific Crest Trail and from then on it's The Pilgrim's Progress. In the past you aimed for a shrine; these days, it's the journey itself that matters. Things happen- encounters- most of which- if your'e a single woman in the wilderness- wear a menacing aspect. Cheryl cheats on the task by dodging some snow and extends her journey to make up for it and the new end point is a place called Bridge of the Gods- and it's just a bridge over a river and the name is a happy accident- only once you're in the pilgrimage frame of mind nothing is an accident any more.
Reece Witherspoon is hardly ever off screen and gives a hell of a performance. Gawky Laura Dern is wonderful as the mother we might all have wished to have. Mostly I sit back and watch films from a distance, admiring the parade as it passes by, but this one really drew me in.