The Woodsman (2004)
8/10
one of Kevin bacon's best performances and a great supporting cast.
7 February 2005
This week's review is for "The Woodsman," the directorial debut of Nicole Kassell.

The woodsman tells the story of Walter, played with an Oscar-worthy performance by Kevin Bacon, who just got out of prison for child molestation after 12 years. Walter attempts to restart his life as a normal citizen by buying an apartment, which happens to be across the street from a grade school because it was the only landlord that would take his money, and by getting a job at a lumberyard. Walter begins a romance with co-worker Vickie, played beautifully by Kyra Sedgwick, and must deal with the label that society places on him and his own self-guilt. With the help of Kyra and a young girl, Robin, perhaps the only 2 people who understand and sympathize with him, Walter attempts to forgive himself and become what he wants to be, just normal.

Kevin Bacon does a remarkable job playing the detached almost emotionless Walter. You're able see in his eyes, in his face, the anguish that he puts on himself and the reflections of society's view of him. Yes, I called his performance Oscar-worthy, and it is, unfortunately, it came out too late to be considered by the academy this year, and too early to be considered for next year's awards. Kyra Sedgwick does a great job as Walter's love interest and as a woman who has her own inner demons from her past. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are accompanied by a great supporting cast including Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, Eve, and David Allen Grier, all of which pull their weight with great performances.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is how the topic of pedophilia is handled. Bacon plays the role not as most people see child molesters as just a person who has a sick fetish, but instead Walter is a man who knows that its wrong, doesn't want to be this way, but cannot help it. As Benjamin Bratt's character describes it, his disease. The audience, instead of disliking Walter, as we normally would, sympathizes with him and sees that in some cases it may be a mental sickness. It's also interesting to see how Walter's outlook on the world is. He is a man confused by the ideas of love and attraction as he suspects that his best friend has romantic feelings toward his daughter just because he used the term love.

What really makes this movie is the final 20 or so minutes, in which as I sat there, I was tense and on the edge of my seat and not a breath could be heard throughout the theatre. The little girl, Robin, played by first timer Hannah Pilkes, almost steals one of the climactic scenes away from Bacon and really makes her presence in the film known. While the final 20 minutes really propels the film to success, that is not to say that the first hour and ten minutes are not without their merit. However, at times, it did seem like it took a bit too long to get to where it was going.

The Woodsman is a great film that deals with a subject that you don't see too much in film and it's handled remarkably. Nicole Kassell produces a great film her first time around which gives me the pleasure to give the Woodsman 4 stars.
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