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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136 of 160 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.
33 of 41 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 deeply engrossing filmJan. 22 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
I have been anticipating to see "The Woodsman" for sometime now. I finally caught the afternoon matinee and loved it. This film was very subtle and didn't adhere to your typical introduction, suspenseful build-up and climatic ending. The film was intense yet subtle.
Kevin Bacon puts in an amazing performance as Walter, a pedophile who was recently released from prison. He is trying to start a new life after serving 12 years for molesting a few young girls (I was under the impression that it was three but I could be wrong). Unfortunately the only apartment that he could get was across the street from a elementary school. This alone tests Walter and his inner demons. Real-life spouse Kyra Sedgewick puts in a equally wonderful performance as Walter's girlfriend/co-worker Vickie. Despite knowing Walter's past, she still wants to be with him and eventually opens up to him about her troubled past.
The cameo appearances by Eve, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, and Benjamin Bratt were excellent. I wish that there was a bit more of David Alan Grier as Walter's boss but otherwise their presence in the film were just as compelling as the lead characters. I wasn't too impressed by the cameo appearance by Madonna's ex-boyfriend Carlos Leon as Pedro. His acting abilities is something to be left desired. The stand out performance by the following actors had to be Mos Def. Mos Def's performance as Sgt. Javert who is constantly up Walter's grill, especially when something bad happens in the neighborhood.
I have to give major points to director Nicole Kassell for tackling a very uncomfortable, if not ugly subject which is pedophilia. The subject matter is definitely not for the squeamish. The cinematography was very gritty which matched well with the subject. The way the film was edited was excellent and conveyed to this moviegoer the torment that Walter was experiencing.
My only flaw I found with the film is the way that Walter's past was handled. I did not like being given snippets of a young girl and the red rubber ball that I used to play dodgeball with in elementary school. I understood that it was part of Walter's past but I think I would have liked to have known a little more or had just left it out altogether.
The best qualities about this film is how Nicole treated her lead characters Walter and Vickie. They were flawed, wounded souls to say the very least but at the same time they were human and trying to make their way through life . By all means, Nicole certainly doesn't paint pedophilia in a positive light. She makes it very clear that pedohpilia is wrong but she at the same time wants to show the moviegoer what a convicted pedophilia goes through when he is re-integrated with society after serving prison time. It ain't a pretty picture but it certainly gave me some insight to what a convicted child molester goes through in society.
After Kevin's stunning performance in 2003's "Mystic River", I didn't think he could put in an even better performance but he did here in "The Woodsman". Like wine, Kevin Bacon just keeps getting better and better with age.