This evening we watched Into the Wild, a (2007) film midway between Jack Kerouac and Jeremiah Johnson in theme. It is a pretty faithful story of the true life and times of Christopher McCandless, a determined young vagabond, consumed with wanderlust, who finally died of starvation, either by choice or by accident, in the Alaskan wilderness. Sean Penn’s direction is peerless. Though a hommage to the real McCandless, this is a film that should, and hopefully will, stand on its own reputation. Part of its attractiveness comes from its honesty and authenticity, enhanced by the incorporation into the story of real American places and people, such as Salvation Mountain and its creator, Leonard Knight. But the film’s success owes a great deal to Emile Hirsch’s entirely convincing performance as ‘Alexander Supertramp’. Many will be well aware of the controversy surrounding McCandless’s alleged ‘irresponsible’ behaviour and ‘suicidal’ choices. We’ll never know the truth, but one of the sweeter and more convincing explanations is that McCandless, knowing full well that there was no longer such a thing as an unmapped wilderness, deliberately eschewed the maps that would have saved his life. Whatever, we don’t need to know anything about the ‘true’ story to enjoy a great American road movie.