Fashioned from a book by Jon Krakauer, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is an elegiac film about Christopher Johnson McCandless, who, upon graduating from Emory University in 1990, set out, without notifying his family, to live as elementally as possible in a manner inspired by Thoreau, Tolstoy and Jack London. He donated his life savings to charity, junked his car, burned his cash and traveled through the West and the Northwest (and, for a brief time, Mexico), taking odd jobs when he needed to and dreaming of Alaska. And that’s where he ended, holed up in an abandoned bus and starving.
Penn’s screenplay is set up as a series of flashbacks with a double frame: Chris’s final days and the voice-over narration by his sister Carine (Jena Malone). She provides background on the family and comments philosophically on her brother’s choices—which sadden her, but which she also champions.