The Woodsman (2004) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A child molester returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and attempts to start a new life.

  • After twelve years in prison, Walter arrives in an unnamed city, moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie, a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But Walter cannot escape his past. A convicted sex offender, Walter is warily eyed by his brother-in-law, shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious local police officer, Detective Lucas. After befriending a young girl in a neighborhood park, Walter must also grapple with the terrible prospect of his own reawakened demons.

  • After twelve years in prison, the child molester Walter is released in probation. He starts a new life, getting a small and simple apartment near a school, and a job in a lumberyard. The tormented Walter tries to be and act normal, haunted by his past demons and having sessions with a shrink, while the snoopy gossip colleague Mary-Kay investigates his life. He has an affair with another suffered colleague, Vicki, while is also stalked by a suspicious detective, Sgt. Lucas.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Bacon plays Walter, a convicted child molester returning home to Philadelphia after a 12-year stint in prison. Walter finds that his friends and family have abandoned him, with the exception of his brother-in-law, Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). He gets a job at a lumber mill, where he meets Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick), one of the few women working at the mill, who quickly sleeps with him. She initially rejects him after learning of his past, but eventually becomes his girlfriend, convinced that he is a good man at heart.

    Walter receives frequent visits from a verbally abusive cop named Lucas (Mos Def), whose role is to make sure Walter is staying away from children.

    Now that he is out of prison, Walter must learn to deal with the community's contempt and avoid temptation, including an elementary school across the street from his apartment and a young bird-watcher, Robin (Hannah Pilkes). He also comes to suspect that a man he has seen watching children near his apartment building is also a child molester. Over the course of the film, Walter observes the man (Kevin Rice) offering young boys candy, chatting them up, and abducting them. Walter nicknames the man "Candy".

    Walter's life takes a further downturn when a suspicious coworker (Eve) learns of his crimes and alerts the entire mill. Seeking "relief", Walter goes to the park intending to molest Robin who confides in him that her father is abusing her. Finally realizing the damage he has caused, Walter changes his mind and tells her to go home. As she leaves she hugs him. On his way home, he sees Candy dropping off a young boy at his school at night. In a fit of rage and self-hatred, Walter beats Candy so badly he fractures his jaw.

    Soon after, Lucas visits Walter's apartment as he is packing to move in with Vicki and tells him that a man was beaten across the street the night before, asks if he heard anything. He tells Walter that the boy can make a positive ID of the assailant, and that the victim is wanted in Virginia for raping a young boy, clearing Walter's conscience. Walter later meets his sister, who he hasn't seen in years, and she becomes very angry and leaves him. As the movie closes, in a voiceover discussion with his therapist (Michael Shannon), Walter explains that he understands and accepts her anger, and expresses optimism for his own future.

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