Publicity Stills of "The Woodsman"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

Sundance Film Festival (January 20 -30, 2005)

2005 Ray-Ban Visionary Award - Kevin Bacon

Genre: Drama
Director: Nicole Kassell
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kyria Sedgwick, Mos Def, Benjamin Bratt
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Festive Films
Rating: M18

Release Date: 3 March 2005

Synopsis :

Kevin Bacon, an indispensable fixture of American cinema over the past 20 years, delivers his finest performance in The Woodsman, an harrowing and moving tale of one man's attempt to re-enter society.

After 12 years in prison, Walter (Bacon) arrives in an unnamed city, moves into a small apartment across from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard and mostly keep to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie (Kyria Sedgwick), a tough-talking woman who promises not judge him for his history. But Walter can not escape his past. A convicted sex offender, Walter is warily eyed by his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt), shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious local police officer, Detective Lucas (Mos Def). After befriending a young girl in a neighbourhood park, Walter must also grapple with the terrible prospect of his own reawakened demons.

The Woodsman - based on a play of the same name, directed by Nicole Kassell and produced by Lee Daniels, is an unnerving, ultimately hopeful portrait of compulsion and hard-won redemption


Movie Review:

The topic explored in "The Woodsman," is an understated drama simmering just underneath the surface with explosive emotions and occasionally breathless intensity. As written and directed by Nicole Kassell, the touchy subject of pedophilia is viewed thoughtfully and free of bias. Kassell does not ask for the audience's affections toward her central character, and doesn't deny that what he has done is an awful thing but she chooses not to condemn him. Instead studying his disturbed psyche as he realistically deals with reemerging temptations. Based on a play by Steven Fechter, "The Woodsman" displays an honest, unsentimental portrait of the experiences and hurdles that might face a pedophile who has just been reintroduced into the real world after being locked up for many years.

Kevin Bacon stars as Walter, a convicted sex offender who’s released from prison after serving 12 years. Walter is trying to start his life over but is plagued by the inner demons that led to his previous crimes. His new job at a lumber yard where he is at constant torment of being quickly ostracized once word of his criminal past leaks out, develops a tentative romance with a co-worker named Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick). Adding to his isolation is the fact that Walter’s brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt) is the only member of his family who will still speak to him.
The Woodsman is a powerful film that doesn’t play into typical movie conventions as a way of pandering to the audience. The script is almost minimalist in terms of dialogue, and that allows the actors to fashion characters from within, through expression and action rather than words. Kevin Bacon delivers one of his best performances as the tormented Walter. He manages to create a sympathetic character out of someone that most of us would immediately brand a deviant, a villain or just someone we’d never be able to relate to. Walter doesn’t say much, but his body language tells all. He’s perpetually closed in and stooped in such a way that suggests he just wants to disappear.

Along with Bacon’s skilled work, credit has to go to director Nicole Kassell, who makes her directorial debut with such a solid film. Although its displayed to us as only part of the journey, in this case, such an issue can never be resolved within a 2hr timeline. Whats great about this film is that she never exploits the material or the characters, and she wisely allows the action to unfold slowly, naturally and however painfully it might unfold. She doesn’t cast judgment on Walter and crafts the film in such a way that the audience is left to form an opinion on its own. The film doesn’t ask us to condemn Walter any more than it wants us to pity him. It simply tells the compelling story of a man who’s locked in a struggle and asks us to put preconceptions aside to learn from what we watch.
The culmination of events in this film is at times startlingly raw, so subtly heightened and unsettling that some viewers (myself included) may find themselves forgetting to breathe as it plays out. Without going into details and ruining the outcome, the scene where Walter finds himself sitting on a park bench with an introspective, bird-watching 11-year-old girl named Robin (Hannah Pilkes) after exchanging words comes to discover something about himself, and the weight of the things he has done in the past, that changes him possibly forever. That five minutes to me was perfect, well-measured in tone and pace, thematically profound, and emotionally devastating.

Without exception aside from Bacon, the performances of the rest of the cast are top notch and always naturalistic, even from those with obligatory roles - Eve as meddling secretary Mary-Kay; David Alan Grier, in a rare dramatic turn as company boss Bob, who gives Walter a break; Kyra Sedgwick, as Vickie; and Mos Def, bringing unforeseen layers to the cynical Sgt. Lucas. In one of his better turns to date, the usually bland Benjamin Bratt is memorably good as Walter's understanding brother-in-law, Carlos, the only family member willing to stay in contact with him. The best supporting work, comes from Hannah Pilkes, making a piercing, standout screen debut as 11-year-old Robin. Pilkes reaches for some hefty emotions and finds them with an unaffected poignancy that briefly steals the picture away from Kevin Bacon. The theft is short-lived, for Bacon's courageous, soul-bearing work as Walter is, quite possibly, one of his crowning acting achievements. When he is on-screen, which is almost continuously, it is difficult to unglue your eyes from his face, the worn and melancholy shadow of a man whose weaknesses have led to a life he, and those around him, live in fear of. Bacon doesn't ever seem to be trying, which is the key to his success; his Walter is not overly nice or stereotypically evil so much as deeply flawed but always earnest.

Overall, it is definitely one grim and moody straightforward psychological drama filmmaking you'll see. The Woodsman is a complex, dark and very internalized film that takes you inside the mind of a convicted sex offender. The script might be weak in some areas, but Kassell does make that up with good directing and editing. Keep an eye out for director Nicole Kassell in the future. She definitely will make name for herself in the coming years. That being said, the main reason to go see the film is to watch Bacon's performance unfold throughout the film. To me, this is probably the performance of his career. Bacon is a Hollywood veteran, yet he never seems to get the attention he deserves. I thought he was great in last years Mystic River, but he seemed to be overshadowed by Tim Robbins and Sean Penn's performances. Bacon usually is great at showing emotions without saying words and his performance in The Woodsman is the finest example of that.

Movie Rating: B+

Review by Lokman B.S.

DISCLAIMER: Images, Textual, Copyrights and trademarks for the film and related entertainment properties mentioned
herein are held by their respective owners and are solely for the promotional purposes of said properties.
All other logo and design Copyright©2004-2005, movieXclusive.com™
All Rights Reserved.