The whole film is saturated with the idea of the meaning of life and its true value. Not everyone manages to risk and go on a long journey on foot for several months, as the main character, Cheryl Strayd, did. The story of this strong girl is based on the experience of a writer who told in her memoirs about a difficult life period that changed her forever.
Cheryl divorced her beloved husband and lost her mother, to whom she was very attached. These events led her to the same path, the passage of which took three months. As Cheryl moves along the route, she remembers and analyzes her life, and the audience learns about her past: the reasons for her divorce from her husband, the consequences of her mother’s death, problems with her father, drug addiction and many betrayals. The heroine enters the road as a confused woman who does not know how to get out of a huge tangle of problems. But she ends the route with a completely different person, she becomes conscious, wise. She releases the anger and hatred that accompanied her at the start of her journey. She finds her inner peace and becomes happy.
Plunging into the life of Cheryl, it is worth understanding her past, as this directly affects the heroine. Cheryl’s mother, Bobbie, was a very cheerful woman who, despite her tyrant husband, poverty and a disease that was killing her, remained happy and continued to please her children in every possible way. She did not allow longing and sadness to penetrate her consciousness. Bobbie was a strong woman, and she tried to raise her children to be as peaceful as herself. From childhood, Cheryl was attached to her mother, they were real friends, although sometimes she did not understand the views of her mother. The heroine herself admits that only four years, seven months and three days after Bobby’s death, she was able to become what her mother raised her. Cheryl had to overcome a difficult path to understand the value of life and everything that her mother told her.
The loss of her mother had a very detrimental effect on the young woman, because of which she became addicted to heroin and began to lead a promiscuous sex life, pleasing all men who wanted to. The tragedy that happened in the family shook Cheryl’s mental health, because of which she destroyed her family with constant betrayal and drug use. When the heroine found out about her accidental pregnancy (of course, not from her husband), she admitted that her life had turned into horror, and she herself had gone astray. This news was the last straw that pushed Cheryl to travel from the Mexican to the Canadian border. From the memories, periodic letters from the already ex-husband and rare phone calls, it can be concluded that Cheryl and Paul (already ex-husband) are still not indifferent to each other, but they will no longer be able to be together because of what happened. In a conversation with a friend, the woman again admits that she is to blame for the breakup of the family, because everything was fine with her husband before Bobby’s death. The seven-year marriage failed.
There are several symbols in the film that cannot but make special sense. First, the fox appears three times in the film. And she meets when Cheryl is hard and difficult to move on. Notably, Cheryl’s mom Bobby was also a redhead, hinting that the vixen is the mother’s spirit. In one of the scenes, when Cheryl first sees this fox, the heroine screams and asks her to come back. This also confirms that the heroine sees her mother in this forest animal. But also one scene on the mountain shows the audience that in fact this fox does not exist at all, it was all Cheryl’s dream.
Secondly, Cheryl meets a little boy with his grandmother in the forest one day, and the child offers to sing a song that his mother taught him. The song itself contains, one might say, a direct appeal to Cheryl. The boy sings about the road and the journey, and also says: “Remember everyone who was next to you, and do not forget my love.” This little song makes Cheryl burst into tears right in the rain. This demonstrates that she found something in the song that touched her.
The ending has a special meaning, as the viewer sees the change in the character and understands how this road has changed Cheryl Strayd. At the beginning of the journey, Cheryl did not know how, she carried the burden of the past on herself, it was hard for her to walk (which symbolizes the fact that it is difficult for her to move through life), she quickly got tired, rubbed her legs and lost her temper. But when she reached the end, it is clear that it is already easier for her to move around, she does not have the injuries that she had before, her legs no longer hurt, and the backpack is not heavy. She learned to get rid of the unnecessary past in the same way as from useless items in a backpack. And it helped her ease both her long journey and her life in general. In the last scene, she stands on the bridge with a smile on her face and thinks about the value of her life, saying: “My life, like all life, is mysterious, irreversible and sacred. So close, so real, so only mine. And how wonderful to let her be…”