Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch at 'Into the Wild' Premiere at Rome Film Festival

Sean Penn
Originally uploaded by minimum_photo
Last night's première at the Rome Film Festival attended by Sean Penn and the star of Into the Wild, Emile Hirsch, was probably the event I'd been most looking forward to over the last few days. I'm a huge fan of Sean Penn as both an actor and director and loved his directorial debut The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson, so it was a real thrill to have got tickets. And what a film...With Into the Wild he's made a heartbreakingly beautiful film – an uncompromising masterpiece. Based on the true story recounted in the bestselling book of the same name written by mountaineer Jon Krakauer, the film tells the story of two extraordinary years in the life of passionate idealist Christopher McCandless (Hirsch), a middle class Emory University graduate, who in 1990 gave away all his possessions, his $24,000 life savings to Oxfam and began hitch-hiking across the US under the name of Alexander Supertramp, heading eventually to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Emile Hirsch, who is on screen for virtually the entire film, conveys the charismatic power and passion of this unique young man and the effect he has on the people he meets on his travels, and is supported by a brilliant cast of better known actors – the always brilliant Christine Keener is particularly good, as are Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook. The film as a whole avoids sentimentality and never flinches at also showing the terrible pain that McCandless' decision causes for his parents (played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) and sister (Jena Malone). The film is also enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.

The Rome audience responded with a standing ovation and long applause for both the director and star who had remained in the theatre till the end of the film.