Review: The Woodsman

MovieSteve rating:
Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman
Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman



There are two big default ideas in Hollywood movies and in The Woodsman we have not just a fine film about a paedophile but also a film tackling these two notions head on. The first of Hollywood’s mantras is “be yourself”. The second: “you can have anything if you want it enough” – often expressed as “never give up on your dream”. In The Woodsman Kevin Bacon plays Walter, a fresh-from-prison paedophile who would give anything not to be himself, a man who would love to give up his dream – of having sex with young children. Unfortunately for Walter, his insane bail conditions force him to live over the road from – hollow laugh – a school.

This is a dark, disturbing drama and a gift of a role for Bacon, an actor who often looks as if he’s on the verge of something unpleasant. Here he’s well backed up by Mos Def and Benjamin Bratt and in particular by Kyra Sedgwick, another actor with a nose for a difficult role. The fact that she’s Bacon’s wife in real life probably helps. If The Woodsman’s subject matter is the stuff of tabloid newspaper rabble-rousing, the tone is anything but – downbeat, all muted colours and with a soundtrack that’s relentlessly minor in key. And Bacon really elicits sympathy for his struggle against his condition. Most interestingly, because the usual, glib “be yourself” or “follow your dream” guff can’t be accessed, this film is actually forced into a corner that most films don’t find themselves in. How it gets out from there provides an additional belt of interest. Not that this dreama really needs any.

© Steve Morrissey 2004


The Woodsman – at Amazon



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The Woodsman (2004) Drama | 87min | 25 February 2005 (UK) 7.2
Director: Nicole KassellWriter: Steven Fechter, Nicole KassellStars: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Yasiin BeySummary: After twelve years in prison, Walter arrives in an unnamed city, moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie, a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But Walter cannot escape his past. A convicted sex offender, Walter is warily eyed by his brother-in-law, shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious local police officer, Detective Lucas. After befriending a young girl in a neighborhood park, Walter must also grapple with the terrible prospect of his own reawakened demons. Written by Sujit R. Varma


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