After graduating from college, Chris gives his life savings to charity, changes his name to ‘Alexander Supertramp’ and, ensuring no one could find him, leaves to travel around America. He doesn’t take any maps and instead uses his literary heroes Thoreau and Tolstoy as guides. His aim is to have a true wilderness experience in Alaska, and escape the trappings of society and personal relationships. He spends two years as a ‘leather tramp’, hitchhiking, kayaking and odd-jobbing his way around. Chris’ enjoyment of his journey is as much about the people he meets as it is the vast and beautiful solitary landscapes. Sadly, Chris doesn’t realise this until it’s too late.
For me, the most poignant moment (aside from the end) was when Chris left widower Ron without a backwards glance or seemingly any care. At the end of the film I did cry, but only in part for Chris. Mostly, it was because Ron would still be alone, and never know Chris realised he needs people, and only know his rejection. There’s a beautiful sadness in the film about the different kinds of isolation people find or put themselves in.
I’ve read a few reviews which admire and idolise Chris’ desire to break free and live life in a different way. Others describe him as selfish and stupidly naive. I don’t think the two views are mutually exclusive. Chris is selfish in the way he leaves his family, particularly his sister. However, to actually go and try to live life exactly how you want in spite of the risks takes a lot of courage. The film doesn’t try to dictate what conclusion you should come to. It just presents the story and allows you to come to your own conclusions. It’s also, thankfully, not been Hollywood-ised and turned into cheap sentiment.
Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) sings the soundtrack. Beautiful. The cinematography is stunning and Emile Hirsch is amazing as Chris. Go rent it.