The Woodsman Review
Let me state this straight off - you should consider this the “Disclaimer”. If you've never heard of this film, be aware right now that the subject matter may be a little uncomfortable for some people.The Woodsman weaves a tale about Walter (Bacon), a convicted paedophile, who has served his time, is out on supervised parole and now has to re-integrate with society. He has to see a counsellor to discuss his “illness” as well as to assist with his new life after his prison term. He picks an apartment over looking a school, starts a job in a local sawmill and he is eventually befriended by Vickie (Sedgwick - Bacon's real life wife), whom instigates a relationship with Walter. They share their deepest, darkest secrets with each other, which when she is told his, doesn't drive her away. Walter's only real friend is his brother in law, Carlos (Bratt), who has some form of respect for Walter and is trying to build a bridge between him and his wife, as clearly Walter's family wishes nothing to do with him. He is constantly reminded of his past by the local sheriff (Mos Def), but his past is also uncovered by his boss's secretary Mary-Kay (Eve), whom decides that it is in everyone's interest for them to know his past. On top of all this, Walter constantly observes another male, whom he christens “Candy” who is clearly a predatory paedophile, looking to lure a young boy into his car. Tormented by his inner demons, as well as his inner passions, Walter slowly appears to be losing his struggle with, as he puts it, normality.
This is without a doubt, Kevin Bacon's finest acting role to date. His portrayal of Walter is very insular and he indeed looks like a very tired, very defeated man, but when his eyes open wide they are steel-blue and almost show a totally different side to the physical appearance. I still maintain Sean Penn was robbed of an award for his role in “I am Sam” and I honestly think that Bacon should have had some acknowledgement for this role, but I guess the subject matter is a tad thorny for any awards to wish to honour such a role. Sure he could have played it over the top, but this is such an understated performance that there are moments you almost feel compassion for him. He clearly looks, throughout the movie, that he has regret, although I wouldn't say if it were regret for his actions, or the regret for consequences of his actions. It truly is quite a powerful performance. The rest of the cast are also well cast, particularly Mos Def as the sheriff, whom is only seen 3 times in the movie but is poignant enough in his appearances. I haven't elaborated too much on plot points, as I don't wish to ruin a movie for anyone, but this isn't something you want to watch for light-hearted reasons. This is as serious a drama as they get, which on some levels, owes a passing nod to “Eternal Sunshine”. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is, but there is something about how the movie plays out that just reminded me of that movie. There are moments in this film which will probably make you uncomfortable - indeed, Walter's past deeds aren't mentioned directly until around 30 minutes in when he states clearly “I molested little girls”. This isn't a movie designed to try and shock you, it doesn't really have a feel good ending, it does however try and make you realise not just how some people are, but how we can become as much a monster as the people like Walter - albeit a different type of monster. Throughout the movie, these words, such as Monster and Disease are used to try and explain the behaviour of a man like Walter, but it never suggest that they are right or wrong, merely labels we are comfortable with using. This is a good movie, one that's subject may be a little too near the mark for some and although you won't feel entertained, you will come away with something from this, even if it is only Bacon's best role.