The Woodsman (2004)
8/10
The heart of darkness
25 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Walter, a child molester, is released from jail, where he has served time for one of the most heinous crimes ever committed by a person. He is a man that has lost everything in the process. His sister repudiates him; the only one being kind is his brother-in-law, Carlos, who feels it's his duty to be nice to him because Walter had proved to be his friend in his own time of need.

What's to expect from a man like Walter? This is the basis of this courageous and disturbing film, directed by Nicole Kassell with great sensitivity to the subject matter. Can Walter keep away from the temptations that were instrumental in landing him in jail? Or, would he go back to harming unsuspecting children? When he arrives in Philadelphia, Walter is given a job by a man whose father had met him in prison. For all practical purposes, Walter seems to be behaving himself, even when his new apartment overlooks a play area of an elementary school. He is trying to work things out with a therapist, apparently, making progress. He becomes obsessed with a man he sees hanging out by the playground offering candy and rides to young boys. This is a sad reminder for him of what landed him in jail.

In the lumber factory where he works, Walter meets Vicky. She is also a woman who has seen a lot. Vicky doesn't appear to be a likely candidate for a relationship with the ex-con, but they appear to be more compatible than what one gives them credit for, at a simple glance. Vicky begins caring for Walter as his secret past suddenly is blown out of proportion in the work place. Vicky is not a quitter, and she realizes she loves him, and she can't believe the monster Walter is supposed to be, is the man that she has fallen for.

After quitting his job, Walter is seen on a bus, attracted by a young girl that is traveling alone. He follows her into a park, but the encounter only emboldens him to pursue the girl. When everything turns bad, after seeing his sister briefly, Walter begins a predatory march toward the park, searching for Robin, the meek young girl he met before. That encounter reveals that Robin is a damaged girl, victim of an abusive father and Walter changes his mind about it. The film ends in a positive note as Vicky comes for Walter to take him to her place.

"The Woodsman" works because of the incredible Kevin Bacon. He is the Walter of the story. Mr. Bacon has never been better! This actor surprises by the way he conveys the essence of the character just by looking at all the emotions going through inside him. Under the direction of Nicole Kassell, Kevin Bacon rises to the challenge of capturing Walter.

Kira Sedgwick is seen as Vicky. She is also contributes to make the film even better. In supporting roles Mos Def, Eve, Benjamin Bratt and the sweet Hannah Pilkes are seen. Ms. Pilkes is a revelation in the film. She shows great talent holding her own against Mr. Bacon.

Nicole Hassell and her cinematographer, Xavier Perez Grobit have done wonders with a film that in spite of the darkness of the situation, shed a lot of light into the picture. Ms. Hassell is a new talent who will, no doubt, go places.
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