The Woodsman, starring real-life couple Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, is a thoughtful, plaintive movie about a difficult subject. Walter, played with grace and restraint by Kevin Bacon, is a sex offender recently released from prison after 11 years. He takes a job at a lumberyard based on a favor and is befriended by Vicki (Sedgwick) who wonders about his reticence and secrets. When he finally tells her his secret, she first laughs and then is stunned that he is telling the truth.
Their relationship, along with other relationships in the movie, are refreshing in that they do not follow typical clichés. Two roles in particular – Benjamin Bratt as Walter’s brother-in-law and Mos Def as the sergeant responsible for keeping an eye on Walter – take on additional depth and honesty because of good performances and nuanced characterization.
Bacon and Sedgwick are both playing down their natural screen charisma here, with unflattering haircuts and sallow faces. In particular Bacon’s body language and the feel of his character are very convincing. This becomes rather uncomfortable at times, as Bacon’s character is sympathetic even while he struggles with the temptations of falling back into his old ways. The movie takes several unsuspecting turns, even as you think you have things figured out. Although the path Walter takes may ultimately not seem completely believable, the strength of the performances and the willingness of the film to tackle the subject matter head-on make it a good choice for fans of more serious and thought-provoking dramas.