Friday March 4 2005 The Woodsman is not an easy movie. It revolves around Walter, a convicted pedophile, who returns to society after having spent 12 years in prison. When you hear that a movie has a pedophile as a main character, you are inclined to hate this person, but The Woodsman, and in particular main character Kevin Bacon, do not make this easy. Because even though it is still horrible what Walter has done, you can see in this movie that he is a man with his own feelings and emotions, who is fighting against his 'disease' and who does not want the world to see him as a monster.
It's not easy for Walter to reclaim his normal life after his stay in prison. All his old friends don't speak to him anymore, his own sister does not want to have any contact, and the only friend that Walter has is his brother in law Carlos (a strong role from Benjamin Bratt). Walter has a job, where only his boss knows what is going on, but he still has trouble making contact with his colleagues. On top of that, a cop (Mos Def) is keeping an eye on Walter, knocking on the door at any time he pleases to check if Walter is still behaving like he should, not letting a single chance pass to remind Walter what a piece of filth he thinks he is. To make matters worse, Walter's window looks out over the playground of a school, which is not helping Walter keep his head clear of impure thoughts. Things look up a little bit when he meets a woman at work that he hits it off with (Bacon's real life wife Kyra Sedgwick). But when people start finding out about Walter's past, things start to get more and more difficult very rapidly.
The Woodsman is an impressive debut movie from director Nicole Kassell. It's not an obvious choice for a debut. Pedophilia is not an easy subject to convert to the screen, and when you try to portray the main character in a sympathetic way, then you can expect a huge backlash. Still, Kassell pulls it off remarkably. She is able to make Walter a character you cannot completely hate, while she does remind you that this is a man with a very dark past. Ofcourse, she is very ably supported by Kevin Bacon, who delivers maybe the highlight of what is already an incredible career. He shows us a man in pain, who knows that he can probably never completely control himself, but who is unable to accept that people hate him because of that. He might be a a human with a screw loose, but he is still a human. The supporting roles in this movie are also all very strong. Sedgwick is a strong girlfriend, who has a bit of a dark past of her own, while Mos Def shows he has a lot of depth, even in a small role. The biggest revelation of the movie is Hannah Pilkes, who plays 11 year old Robin, the latest girl to whom Walter takes an unnatural liking. The scene that the two share together at the end of the movie is awkward to watch, but also a scene you won't forget very soon. Then again, the same thing can be said for the whole movie.