The Woodsman - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Woodsman Reviews

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November 7, 2017
Loved how one becomes understanding and empathetic towards him in the end.
April 29, 2017
Ever hear the story of a pedophile who regretted his actions and tried rebuilding his life? We've heard true-life stories of ex-cons trying to reintegrate into society and see it in other media, but I personally have never seen this type of movie. We open with Walter (Kevin Bacon) being paroled after twelve years in prison for raping young girls. The fact he even had those urges in the first place make him immediately unrelatable and no relatability of any other character, even the detective who says what is likely on most of the audience's mind about Walter. To be clear, this movie does not glorify pedophilia, but depicts Walter trying to overcome the urge, resist temptation at a couple of points in the 87 minute runtime, and generally build a new life for himself. They waste no time showing him get reintegrated into society by showing him get a job at a lumberyard, meeting Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick), who is one of the few women who works there, and forming a consensual adult relationship when they make use of a different type of wood than what they usually use. Throughout, he attends therapy, which I'll assume is court mandated, and is tempted to recede to his old ways. He also observes another pedophile he nicknames "Candy" (Kevin Rice) offering candy in front of the school he can see from his apartment window. For those wondering how he that was legal, his positioning was the legal minimum distance, which he says in a voice-over is "320 feet." The story is told coherently, and Walter has a satisfying character arc I won't detail here, but will say avoids glorifying pedophilia, because if it did, I would rate this movie negative five stars out of positive five stars. That may be because they never actually show him do his thing, with the most erotic scenes being between him and Vicki, both of whom are consenting adults. If they showed him actually do the deed, nobody involved in this would ever work in film again. That aside, everything else advances the "reintegration and moving on" narrative in some form or another. The soundtrack by Nathan Larson conveys the feelings from this, and is notably absent in scenes like Walter's therapy sessions. Actually, the soundtrack has a notably small presence in this film. That's fine, just like the utter lack of humor. To me personally, the lack of humor here is better, because there is absolutely nothing funny about child molestation. The other thing they could have toned down was the salty language. Do people actually swear that much? Maybe in more intense situations, but I felt some profanity lost all meaning by the end. Overall, The Woodsman does a seriously good job dealing with a very serious topic, without glorifying the sin of child molestation. We at least understand that Walter regrets what he did, and if you want to see how, watch for yourself.
½ February 5, 2017
Loved this movie. Yes, intense, disturbing, and hard to watch, but I think the movie does a good job at balancing the social need to punish heinous crime and the humane compassion to understand the criminal. Also, the moment in the movie when the perpetrate is made to feel the pain of the victim - it was brilliant.
½ January 11, 2017
The Woodsman is a testament to how simplicity can tell an effective story. I watched this movie completely blind on Netflix streaming. Going by nothing but the poster, I was struck by the image of a lonely man in the woods in dark and earthy colors. And that bright red ball dead center. The forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, perhaps? I know, I'm sorry. I sound like some pretentious art student but what can I say? It was mysterious and it intrigued me enough to check it out.

The simplicity of the poster also can be applied to the movie overall. For the 85 minute running time, we are following, almost guerrilla style, a lonely man named Walter (excellently played by a subdued Kevin Bacon) move into a new apartment, get a job at a lumber mill, and strike up a relationship with a coworker (played by Bacon's real life wife Kyra Sedgwick). Early on however, we learn that Walter has a troubled past and has done some truly terrible things. And from there, things are thrown for a loop and the audience is left unsure how to feel about him. Walter is striving to be a better person and reestablish his relationships with his family but he constantly finds himself tempted to fall back into his past misdeeds. This is where the brilliance of the movie lies. The filmmakers don't try to sway you to hate or like Walter. It's left entirely up to you to judge what you think of him. We are simply flies on the wall observing this man.

Like I said, simplicity works well to the film's advantage. There are no huge blowups or arguments or police chases. There's only a simple look into the mindset of a man struggling against his darker impulses. In the end, you will come out of this movie most likely with an unsettling feeling in your stomach. You may feel hopeful or you may feel despair. Either way, you should definitely check this little movie out.
January 9, 2017
Brave with the risk involved, The Woodsman takes an incredibly tricky subject and pulls it off with unbelievable depth thanks to careful focusing and writing, and an astounding performance by Kevin Bacon.
January 7, 2017
Parts of the film shine tremendously in the performance of Kevin Bacon, as well a long scene with a little girl that is truly heartbreaking and shocking. But the rest of the film doesn't live up to the greatness of these two performances. The other characters of the film are conventional, and the pace is maddeningly slow, but that perhaps was on purpose. This was a fairly unusual and disturbing subject to make into a film in 2004, but by today's standards, especially with the over saturation of technology and the ever increasing conversation about pedophilia, the chilling nature of the film has decreased over time. But what is timeless is how creepy it is.
½ December 25, 2016
Some real shitbags in this one
½ December 20, 2016
Why is this in 4:3. Why is it off center in 4:3. Why.
½ October 17, 2016
This effort of a female director is the true index of a talented director who directs not only films with female-related problems but can make a movie with absolutely unrelated theme. Same as Steve McQueen's Shame (a black director makes a movie not about problems of black people and achieves the task brilliantly.
September 27, 2015
Not the easiest subject matter to watch, and not the easiest to commit to film without falling in to the trap of (or even intentionally) portraying its characters in black and white terms. Kevin Bacon's performance is amazing. I was shocked by some of the reviews I had read for this film; several people gave it one star for no other reason than they could not believe that Kevin Bacon would even think of making a movie that dealt with such a taboo subject. Have they never seen 'Sleepers'?
June 28, 2015
The one thing such an intense film does is make us all look at things the other way, and deal with the trickier and more puzzling parts of life..
February 27, 2015
It's teeth were stainless-grey-pale, it's eye's as sinister as an eclipsed moon and it fingers long and branched like an ape. Then in one fowl swhoop the big bad wolf gobbled up red riding hood. The Woodsman enters the house with his axe sharp and flaring from the light of day, like lighting in a bottle he cut open the big bad wolf and saved poor red riding hood from the big bad wolf and stuck muck and stones in his belly and stitched him belly to neck.

This film is muted -quite, giving a clear and clean lense for Bacon's performance to shine through with surprising sympathy. Only to have Kyra Sedwick weigh out his performance evenly.

Can a broken human being be fixed, is it entirely impossible to change who we are? Hated and rejected, at lowest can he see the baleness he is becoming. Had watched this film halfway through last year, finally watched it. It is a great film about the soul of a disturbed man, struggling his way to be normal, ultimately reaching redemption and finding guilt, from what's he has been doing.
½ January 27, 2015
With Kevin Bacon in a critically acclaimed leading performance, The Woodsman sounded like a good chance to see the great actor in a maturely themed leading role.

Although maintaining edgy subject matter, The Woodsman is a low budget film and therefore maintains a sense of simplicity, for better and for worse. In terms of its less than gripping elements, The Woodsman is limited in what it can explore. Although it only runs for 87 minutes which prevents it from ever overstaying its welcome, it remains rooted in its simplicity. All the focus surrounds the main character Walter and how he deals with post-prison life in terms of his psychology and status as a social stigma. I can't blame the film, but the only issue is that it makes the film very subtle. There isn't really much in terms of narrative with The Woodsman as it is essentially all about character development which it is able to succeed at. But the drama in the film does not confront viewers as much as it should. The material in the film is edgy but the way of dealing with it does not put it into the context of a story so much as simply a depiction of one man developing slowly to recover from his flaws. It is slow, but in a gentle way which doesn't demand melodrama or tedious sentimentality. The Woodsman is one of those films which doesn't have to dramatize its material with emphasis on style or adding music in but rather allows the drama in it all to develop on its own terms. This makes it a film which is significantly far from Hollywood tropes and many viewers will have to adjust to that with some unable to really appreciate the value in it all. It didn't do the job perfectly for me, but since I have grown tired of the repetition in Hollywood dramas, it was really nice to see a change of pace in The Woodsman. It was subtle and slow, but also gentle and easy to understand. It all falls onto the work of writer-director Nicole Kassell who worked the script with Steven Fechter and then directed it through the correct territory in a strong manner. For once, The Woodsman is a film about substance over style, even if the general style of the film is nice.
The Woodsman doesn't require its style to compensate for lacklustre roots because the script is solid, but it certainly does help the film out. In maintaining its small scale focus, the setting of the film is captured with a nice collection of locations in Philadelphia which prove atmospheric in the sense that the limited amount of places give a certain claustrophobic setting that matches the experience of being a convicted sex offender trapped within a small town in the reaches of the law. The scenery for the film does a good job establishing the setting of the story and giving the film a general mood as well, and it is further enhanced by the cinematography which encourages this notion. The entire film is shot with gentle cinematography techniques which get up close and personal with the cast members to capture their facial expressions in key detail and their body language to convey what they are feeling when they are not saying anything. The camera in The Woodsman puts a lot more focus on the cast than the scenery which re-establishes the fact that it is a film which is about characters more than anything. The smooth editing of the film also adds to this. All in all, the general style of The Woodsman makes the entire experience feel organic which combines with the general mood of the script to render it the simple feature that it is. The Woodsman goes for simplicity without resorting to tropes and it pays off because Nicole Kassell's ambition as director takes the film in a direction commonly ignored by mainstream cinema circles. It may take some adjusting for the viewer, but by the end of it the experience is insightful and innovative.
Kevin Bacon's chilling performance is what makes The Woodsman worth the viewing. Tackling on the role of Walter, a convicted child molester, he steps into edgy territory. But with his strong dramatic talents which he has spent many years developing, he takes on the part incredibly. Kevin Bacon does a strong job portraying Walter in a complicated light, one which is both sympathetic and eerily haunting. Instead of following the character into archetype territory, Kevin Bacon portrays him in the true complicated way that a man with a strange sexual affliction must think. He captures the frail emptiness of a man battling his inner demons every day just to fit into society, and shows his triumphs over himself just as easily as his downfalls which just goes to show how truly complicated it is to be a paedophile. You can see through Kevin Bacon's eyes into his soul and witness the emptiness of a man with such emotional trouble to him, and through that and the way he approaches all the dark subject matter of the film he is able to leave audiences sympathising for him. To have viewers sympathise for a child molester is one hell of a challenge, and the last time I saw that happen was when I witnessed Jackie Earl Hailey's Academy Award nominated performance in Little Children which really surprised me. Kevin Bacon goes along the same lines, and his dark performance is the entire reason that The Woodsman is worth the experience. If anyone ever doubted his abilities as an actor, his performance in The Woodsman should be the thing that changes that.

So although it is slow and subtle, The Woodsman works thanks to strong directorial work from Nicole Kassell who gives the film a chilling atmosphere and works the script nicely while the powerful leading performance from Kevin Bacon successfully has viewers thinking deeply about the character he plays, rendering it an edgy but entertaining film which is able to overcome its faults.
January 24, 2015
Powerful, well-acted, and interesting. Wow.
January 9, 2015
Haunting,disturbing and creepy underscore this flash flood of a drama.Bacon brings depth to a character I'd rather see none in.
December 13, 2014
The Woodsman is a well made and written and features a fantastic performance by Kevin Bacon.
½ December 13, 2014
Kevin Bacon shows the empathy and human side to Walter's character, while Nicole Kassell handles a heavy story over her shoulders.
September 15, 2014
Its rather slow paced but Kevin Bacons powerful performance makes this film an emotional experience.
August 14, 2014
Absolutely fantastic film in the way that it deals with such a sensitive issue. Very thought provoking, and a film that has seriously altered my views on paedophilia. Kevin Bacon's portrayal of Walter is excellent, and being a survivor of child sexual abuse myself, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really empathising with him. Would definitely recommend this film to anyone with an open mind, although as mentioned in several other reviews, can be hard to watch at times.
Overall, I would definitely rate this film 5 stars.
½ April 10, 2014
A harrowing and highly effective character study that covers a sensitive issue from a unique perspective. The perfectly cast Kevin Bacon offers a striking career's best performance and a scene stealing performance from among the best child actors I have ever seen will draw tears. A wonderful work of art.
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