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I was hesitant to watch this movie. Especially given the seemingly nonstop litany of violent crimes committed by pedophiles in the past couple of years, one doesn't naturally gravitate toward a movie based upon a pedophile's attempt to reenter society. Most of us don't want to have and most likely cannot possibly have the least bit of sympathy for any child molester, but this issue is more complex than I for one would like it to be - and The Woodsman gives evidence to this fact. This is a movie people need to watch - it doesn't offer any real solutions, but it is extremely thought-provoking and can help us try to better understand the depths of what has become an epidemic preying on our children - and you can't solve a problem without understanding it first. It is important to note that the main character here is not a level-three sex offender; he's not a monster, just a man with a very severe problem - one that he is trying to overcome.
Walter (Kevin Bacon) has just been released from prison, having served twelve years for molesting young girls. We are never told exactly what his crimes involved, although he says he never hurt any of his victims. He was fortunate to find a job at a lumber mill and a place to live (although, most troublingly, his apartment is across the street from an elementary school). He sees a therapist every week and receives regular visits from a police detective, both of which are necessary because, no matter how much he wants to be normal, he still has terrible urges to fall back into his old ways. Society doesn't make it easy for him, as those who learn of his past shun him or threaten him with violence - everyone except Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick), who eventually comes to accept him as he is.Read more ›
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This is a very different kind of movie. The subject matter, about a child molester getting out of prison, is a first, I think. Kevin Bacon has guts to do this role! The story however, is a bit shallow. He follows a teenage girl around for a while, neither we nor him knows what he'll do. There is a nasty cop that shows up every now and then, who can't wait for an excuse to put a bullet into our hero for whatever reason... And there is a nasty fellow who seems to be trying to lure a boy from the street into his car...
I won't spoil the end for you, but that's about the whole movie right there... something happens and that's the end. Kind of less than you want in a good story. The woodsman, BTW, is from Little Red Riding Hood.
The end will make you happy, but...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
139 of 163 people found the following review helpful
Little Red Riding HoodJan. 18 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
As I left the theater, I thought to myself: How am I going to write this review? This movie needs to be experienced, to be felt. Then when I looked at the other reviews here on Amazon, I saw that the "experiences" were already covered in detail, so I decided that gave me some leeway.
This is a film about a pedophile, and the struggles he experiences after his release from prison, both with the people in his life and the emotions that boil inside of him. My review is going to focus mainly on the specific events involving him and his pedophilia.
Many viewers likely have difficulty separating the fiction of the movie from the reality of the horrors of child molestation, which probably explains its dismal rating (currently 5.6 out of 10) on pro.imdb.com (the professional version of the Internet Movie Database). They probably feel disgust - and they *should* feel disgust. There is no worse crime than stealing the life of a child. This film was also shunned by the Golden Globes, which means it will likely receive no nods from the Academy, which is much more conservative. That is a pity, because at the very least Kevin Bacon puts on an amazing performance deserves at least a nomination.
Walter (Bacon) is acutely aware of his disease, and he despises himself for it. One can see it in the self-hatred in his eyes, and in the gruff manner in which he treats others. The gruffness, however, probably arose from spending twelve years in prison, where even amongst criminals there is a code of honor: murder, rape, thieve all you want - just never, ever molest a child. While it's never discussed, we can assume that Walter himself was horrifically abused during those twelve years.
Somewhat unbelievably, upon Walter's release from prison, he secures an apartment that is directly across from an elementary school, although it is explained that no other landlord would take his money. His brother-in-law brings him a table, which Walter made as a wedding present for his sister and brother-in-law. Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) says that he's returning it to please his wife. We understand that means that Walter's sister has such hatred, disdain, and an inability to forgive him that she wants nothing of his in her house. Walter places the table in front of a window that overlooks the school's playground, where he either watches, or writes in a journal, which his therapist encouraged him to do. In that journal he speaks of his continuing struggle with his attraction to young girls - and also the very conspicuous stalking of an obvious child molester who is interested in boys. Walter records him in his journal as "candy", and one wonders why Walter doesn't immediately turn him in. He certainly has the opportunity, as he has assigned parole as well as a Sergeant that visits him from time to time to make him feel who takes it upon himself to make Walter feel even worse about himself. Perhaps Walter never turned on "candy" because he still found himself entranced by young girls. That is understandable, even if it is disgusting and revolting.
We also know that he is aware of his abnormality because he speaks of it to his therapist, saying on repeated occasions that he wants to be normal - and normal for him means "looking at a girl and not..." He leaves it at that, but we know what he means. He wants desperately to look at a girl - between the ages of 10 and 12 - and have no desires for her.
Although never directly discussed in the film, there is a scene with his therapist that very strongly suggests a sexual relation between him and his sister, and this likely explains his very specific age range. The therapist asks for his first recollection of sexual feelings, and Walter describes an event where he was taking a nap with his sister and smelling her hair. He was six, and she was four. Walter repeated several times that he enjoyed smelling her hair. The therapist asked him how this progressed over time, and when the age that the therapist approached began to touch on the limits of the girls Walter molested, Walter began to cry and ultimately refused to continue. One can only imagine what took place between the two of them, but whatever it is, Walter's self-reproach is plain. It's also one of the best acted spots in the film.
Walter takes the bus to work, and the bus serves as a catalyst for two things. First, a relationship with a woman (played by Kyra Sedgwick, Bacon's wife) who herself was sexually abused by her brothers when she was younger. When she shares that with Walter, he says to her, "You must hate them". Her reply explains her relationship with him: "No, I love all of them". How she found the ability to forgive them we never know. These situations are complicated.
Second, a young girl rides the bus that he finds attractive. One day he doesn't get off at his stop and he follows her into a park where she's looking at birds. He strikes up a conversation with her, and it's very difficult as an audience member to watch this dialogue. Part of you can't help but care about Walter, because even though you know he has molested young girls (and therefore a part of you loathes him), you see the burning desire for redemption within him and you want him to succeed at becoming "normal". The girl breaks off the conversation and leaves, but not uncomfortably - in fact, she seems very comfortable with him. Nevertheless, Walter wears his guilt like the weight of a galaxy on his shoulders, and he slumps home.
A jealous girl who he originally shunned found out that he was a child molester, and started distributing flyers around the lumberyard where he works with his picture and the nature of his offense. The guys jump on him, he gets slugged a time or two in the gut, and while he originally goes on the floor to work, he walks off early, and finds himself back in the park where he talked to the birdwatcher. He sits on a bench, ostensibly waiting for her to come, and eventually she does, sitting down beside him. Then begins the most uncomfortable part of the film. After some conversation, Walter asks her age (that's part of his M.O. - establish their age), and then asks if she wants to sit on his lap. You can almost hear the collective groan in the theater when he asks this, because you can feel him slipping away into the darkness of his disease again - and we know that if he molests this girl, or even if he is seen sitting next to her, never mind with her on his lap, that he is going back to jail. She says no, and a look of regret and longing wash over Walter's face. Then he asks if her Daddy lets her sit in his lap. She says yes, and he asks if she likes it. And here's the surprise: she says no, and starts to cry.
I'm going to leave it at that, because that in itself is divulging too much of what I feel needs to be experienced. The only other thing I'll say is that the sergeant who is assigned to him shared with him a metaphor earlier in the film, that of the woodsman from Little Red Riding Hood. The woodsman was the character who cut Little Red Riding Hood out of the wolves belly.
The girl on the bus, the birdwatcher, wore a red cape-like jacket.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
the Root of All EvilMarch 4 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
With Kevin Bacon as a recovering pedophile, it's refreshing to see everyone's favorite "boogeyman" get a makeover and allowed ordinary human feelings, audience sympathy, and even, sort of, a happy ending. No doubt lots of people were incensed by the movie and considered it immoral because it evoked sympathy for someone who likes to have sex with pubescent girls (and even pre-pubescent, the character stipulates 10 to 12-year-olds). But it does an admirable job of telling its story first (which is really a character study, made effective by Bacon's soulful and moving performance), and making its points second. The points it makes, predictably enough, center around tolerance and compassion, and the film shows pretty persuasively how regular folk's fear and loathing of "pedophilia" (and the denial of their own propensity for it) only make the whole sticky problem worse, by refusing to even entertain the possibility of understanding.
The film dramatically illustrates the inevitable tension between the deviant and the society that rejects him, and how that tension itself gives rise to further deviance. It's the oldest folly of all, the demonization of the other in order to project all our own unacknowledged neuroses, fears, and desires onto them. But oh, it's convenient! The result is that what we fear and loath inevitably becomes more and more fearsome and loathsome the more we deny it and refuse to understand it. Because without understanding, there is no possibility of acceptance, which is the necessary prerequisite for change. If we only forgive the sinner once he has repented, what's so admirable about that? Especially when we refuse to afford him our trust and compassion and sympathy and belief that he CAN change.
How is the sinner ever to repent, if he can't first be forgiven, and forgive himself? All that self-hatred and the unbearable sense of being different, alienated, from others is what leads to the deviant's neurotic drives to begin with. So it can easily be seen how society's response to the "problem" (a problem which, after all, IT created), only exacerbates the problem further.God how I despise moralists! "Morality is the root of all evil" - if I may be permitted to quote myself. (Matrix Warrior. Hey, it's my dime, man!)
The Woodsman is a slight, and apart from it subject matter, fairly conventional film. But it's an affecting, graceful, intelligent work, with an astonishing and courageous central performance by Bacon; as such, it is definitely one of the best American movies of the past year.
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Incredible script...superb actingJan. 30 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Well, that the film is about a pedophile has already been covered. (At least one reviewer called pedophila a "disease." Since I object to the over-use of that word, I didn't like that review much.)
Bacon plays a guy who just got out of 12 years of prison after having "molested girls," as he himself says to a young woman colleague who takes a liking to him.
Bacon's acting is spectacular. You can see he's struggling with his condition, probably asking himself why he seems driven to it. He continues to ask--of himself and his therapist, "When will I be normal?"
As a favor, he gets a job in a lumber mill. A young black woman takes a liking to him. When he doesn't return the attraction, she goes on the web and finds that he's a convicted child molestor, then exposes him as such, excusing her personal vendetta in that, "They [the other employees] need to know about him." The script cleverly fit in that some other employees were the parents of young girls whom they adored; they, of course, were the ones particulary incensed when they found out the Bacon character was a pedophile.
Later in the script, Bacon exposes his struggle to his brother in law, also the fawning father of a young daughter. The brother on law says that if Bacon even thinks of doing anything with his daughter, he'll kill him.
The sister, by the way, wouldn't even communicate with Bacon any more. She has a distant appearance at the end of the film, a symbol, in essence, that his will be a long term recovery process, of his struggle with pedophilia AND his 12 years in prison.
One of the scenes that moved me was when Bacon met a young girl in the park. She was a bird watcher. Bacon asked her if she'd like to sit on his lap--the watcher anticipates that regression, I did anyway. Then the young girl says no, and starts to cry. It seems her father has her "do that" at times. Ah. So maybe the Bacon character isn't as "abnormal" as he thinks! (I recalled in that scene a conversation I had with a good friend nearly 30 years ago. He ran an institution for kids and denied my stereotype at the time, that incest/pedophilia was something you'd find in the rural South among the uneducated. He'd found that it's more common than many would think among those of whom we don't hear because their warm, close, middle-class families would never talk about it, even if they know anything about it!)
The woman colleague, with whom he's moving in at the end, was perhaps his saving grace. She cares for him, led him through some hard parts of the story despite his having rejected her (assuming, it seems, that she'd already rejected him as so many others had.)
Yes, it's a disturbing story, not just from the standpoint of a repulsive condition such as pedophilia, but from the way we treat prisoners.
Bacon's acting was so outstanding, I'm astonished that he hasn't been nominated at Best Actor. (One reviewer said the academy found the film too distasteful for that. I'm inclined to want to pick up the play; if nothing else, I'd like to see how it transformed from a play into a fine film.
Don't underestimate the quality of the film/story because of the academy's ignoring it. It's an excellent film for which the actors and director should be recognized.
"The Woodsman" is a riveting, disturbing character study of a pedophile named Walter (Kevin Bacon), a 40-something man recently released from prison after molesting young girls. The film focuses on adjustments that Walter and the people around him must make.
Walter is a lonely man when he leaves prison. His family wants nothing to do with him. His co-workers at the lumberyard eye him suspiciously, and some loathe him openly. His apartment is ironically located across the street from an elementary school, a location that both torments and calms him as he tries to come to grips with what he did. His only friend is a brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt), a man who is awkward to talk to.
Walter's sickness - his disposition to wanting young girls - pervades his mind at all hours of the day, and even though he officially is exonerated and on his own (aside from his probation), he knows his perverse desire still resides within him.
Bacon gives a great performance. It's a risky performance (most actors would probably shy away from a pedophiliac character), but he handles it deftly, displaying a mixture of leveled anger, sadness and pain that makes it hard to like or dislike him. Walter isn't a character we can root for, and his momentary pitfalls into pursuing little girls is absolutely chilling, but he seems human and sympathetic in certain ways. He isn't a caricature. He sits between being a monster and a human being, and Bacon's portrayal is superb.
The performances are fantastic all around. Mos Def shows once again that he is a gifted actor, playing a cop who checks up on Walter every now and then. The scenes between Walter and him display some of the finest acting of any independent film this year. Kyra Sedgwick, playing one of Walter's coworkers, also is excellent.
The Woodsman maintains a high level of suspense through its 90-minute running time. Each character gives an emotionally complete, well-rounded performance so that every action is believable. The contentious subject of pedophilia is handled brilliantly, and there are scenes that will stay with you for days. This is a great film, and a laudable achievement in writing and acting.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A great film on a disturbing subjectApril 17 2005
Roland E. Zwick
- Published on Amazon.com
Kevin Bacon gives the performance of a lifetime in "The Woodsman," an astonishingly brave film that confronts an issue few moviemakers have ever had the courage to tackle - pedophilia. Child molesters have become the true monsters of the modern psyche. So repelled are we by their behavior that we shun even the most basic attempts to try and "understand" them. For pedophiles violate that most sacred duty adults have of protecting children from harm at any and all costs. It is for this reason that even the most hardened criminal will often recoil at the actions of a child molester. It's small wonder, then, that filmmakers have been so reluctant to approach this hyper-sensitive subject. Who wants to open himself up to all the slings and arrows that will inevitably come flying his way the moment he puts this topic on the screen? For no matter how evenhanded and subtle the treatment, any writer or director courageous enough to take on the issue will have to face the charge of trying to "humanize" those whom it is far easier for the rest of us to continue thinking of as subhuman. But what price do we pay for such an attitude? Don't we stand a better chance of overcoming this tragic problem by trying to comprehend the mindset of pedophiles rather than calling them "monsters" and, thus, dismissing them out of hand?
Those who made "The Woodsman" certainly think so, for they have come up with a finely crafted study that neither sugarcoats the tragic effects of pedophilia nor demonizes the people who commit the act. Bacon plays Walter, a 45-year-old man who has just been paroled after a twelve-year sentence for molesting two underage girls. Even though he is wracked with guilt and self-hatred and seems to want to "change" his ways now that he`s back on the outside, Walter has, unwisely, chosen to place himself in the way of temptation by renting an apartment directly across the street from an elementary school, where he not only gets a full view of the students there, but also keeps a watchful eye on another pedophile operating the turf. Walter has also found employment at a local lumber company where he meets a young woman who is strangely attracted to him and who insists on knowing just what the "secret" is that has placed such an obvious burden on the man's soul and spirit. For Walter is a man waging a war on two fronts: one against the outside world that wants to revile rather than understand him, and the other against his own personal demons of temptation, guilt and self-loathing. It is here where Bacon truly triumphs as an actor, for he never allows us to forget the titanic struggle taking place within this man's tormented psyche. In every movement, every gesture, every line spoken and unspoken, the pain is there for us to see.
At one point, crushed with the burden of living with this aspect of his character that he himself cannot explain, he breaks down in despair crying "I am not a monster." And he finds "redemption" of sorts when he turns on another pedophile, acting out of the same kind of rage that has been vented on him all these years. It's as disturbing and unsettling a moment for the audience as it is for the character, for we really don't know how we are supposed to react to this incident. Are we to cheer Walter for performing an act of righteous anger, or are we to see him as a pathetic figure taking his frustrations out on a person who should be eliciting his empathy not provoking his outrage? Or is it a form of sublimation, lashing out at the part of himself he has come so much to hate? Indeed, it is this very moral ambiguity, this refusal to see things in black-and-white terms that makes this such a challenging, thought provoking and adult movie.
What is most striking about "The Woodsman" is that writer Steven Fetcher and director Nicole Kassell never sensationalize their subject matter. The tone of the film is moody and subdued throughout, perfectly reflected in the harsh drabness of a working class neighborhood. Kassell stays primarily focused on Walter as he goes about his business of trying to get through each and every day as best he can. She also provides a few brilliant touches that demonstrate her skill and artistry as a director. For instance, in one scene Walter is riding on a bus when he notices a young girl sitting a few seats in front of him. We see him pull the cord to get off at the next stop. Then, Kassell gives us a shot of the door opening and closing with no one having walked through it, indicating, in a subtle and oblique way, that Walter has chosen to stay on the bus so he can follow the girl as she gets off at her stop. Similarly, Kassell keeps the camera inside the bus as we see the girl walking to a nearby park. For a moment, we are led to believe that perhaps we are seeing all this through Walter's eyes - that he has actually chosen to stay on the bus and not pursue his intended victim. But then the camera cuts to a shot from outside the bus and we see that Walter, much to our dismay, has, indeed, stepped off.
In addition to Bacon, there are stunning performances from Kyra Sedgwick as Vickie, the girl who sees some value in Walter that others cannot see; Benjamin Bratt as Walter's sympathetic brother-in-law who, Walter believes, may be having sexual feelings for his own 12-year-old daughter; and Hannah Pilkes, as the little girl who may be Walter's next victim.
"The Woodsman" is probably the first serious attempt to make a thoughtful movie about a child molester since Fritz Lang's "M" in 1930. Those who would accuse "The Woodsman" of trying to generate sympathy for pedophiles are probably barking up the wrong tree here, for if the film shows us anything, it is that even a "reformed" molester can continue to pose a threat to children, even after he has "paid his debt to society." I suspect that the police officer in the film speaks for a large segment of the population when he wonders aloud why the justice system doesn't just keep such people locked up for the duration of their lives. It is a measure of the complexity of this problem that the filmmakers seem as conflicted on this matter as the audience is.
And that`s what makes "The Woodsman" such a great film in the end.