Action packed this is not, but if you thought this character study was going to be a roller coaster, you're clearly not the target audience for this gradually-paced, man VS nature true story re-telling. At well over 2 hours, even the more cynical among the audience will become enchanted by the tale, and quite possibly spare a moment of thought for the real-life nature boy, whom the film is all about.
Initially I wasn't quite feeling 'it'. It initially feels like 'well-to-do middle class kid takes a disliking to capitalism and goes off on some parent-aggrieving adventure' ... it even feels a bit, dare I say it, Hollywood in the idealism of the adventure being undertaken. Simply destroy all your ID and burn your money and start hiking.
However, given the chance, the film proves to you that is has a valid story of a yearning for simplicity and freedom from the young mind, and spirit, of the protagonist. It ultimately becomes soul-searching stuff, amidst the poetic cinematography which draws you into the journey and allows you to sit beside 'Alex Supertramp' throughout.
Of course, the cynicism in most of us will see that it's absolutely stupid - no matter how spiritual - to attempt to 'live off the land' with absolutely no survival training. It's a bit too idealistic for 'kid surburbia' to go it alone in the woods and not expect tragedy which, as anyone remotely familiar with the true life story, is signaled up early on.
Despite this, and the apparent copy-cat journey-makers, and the severity of the tragedy itself (apparently he was merely a few miles from sanctuary, and indeed 1/4 mile from a trafficked cable car route), it is an inspiring film. You shouldn't run off to the wilds with the naivety and idealism of someone tired of the fast-spinning-world of commerce, but perhaps you should step outside of your wallet for a spell ... at least understand that the importance of modern life's accoutrements is merely relative, and ultimately (in a more spiritual sense) unnecessary (they're just nice things to enjoy a bit along the way).
It's inspiring to me in a similar respect to the McGregor/Boorman journeys (particularly Long Way Round) - seeing more than your own town, going on a little adventure (or even big adventure) and coming out of it (or indeed going through it) with a greater appreciation for life and the lives of others, and of course for the world around you.
As a film itself, it's a campfire tale with a camera turned onto it. It feels like a kind of mini-legend, a fairy tale almost, of self-discovery and a search for something meaningful and for a place to be. It's a tale of a free spirit, if I dare to use such a cliched and overused phrase, to describe a profoundly moving piece of artistic filmmaking.
Although as far as recent poetic, meditative character studies surrounded by tragedy go, I'd still plump for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford first ... but then again, I'm a complete whore for that instant classic (also thanks to Total Film for sending my free DVD of it out so quickly, ahead of street date too, nice one).