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Review: The Woodsman

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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.

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  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    I really wanted to watch this when it came out in theatres… still haven’t seen it yet. GRRRR

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Very nice review, Curtis. Unfortunately, a minor site glitch kept the date/time stamp at its original value when I pushed the post from Review status to Publish, so this is more buried than it should be, but I think everyone should give this a read.

    It’s always good to hear about films which deal with distasteful subject matter in interesting ways, and I think Kevin Bacon is a good actor. I will be putting this into my Netflix queue at some point.

  • claire

    hi,

    I really loved this film. I have always thought Kevin Bacon was a great actor but I think ‘The Woodsman’ is one of his finest moments. I do agree that some aspects were a little unrealistic (scene in park with Robin) but it didnt take anything away from the film at all. My only other main feeling was the fact that I couldn’t muster much hatred for the character of Walter when leaving the cinema, and I cant really think whether thats a good thing or a bad thing.

  • http://www.swartzentruber.net/CS/CurtBlog/ Curtis

    Claire, that’s a good point. Walter was sympathetic and you felt sorry for him, but is that a good thing? I think there is value in seeing the humanity in everyone though, even those who do horrific things. It’s a tough call sometimes.