The Woodsman (15)
<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5Rate this
Time Out saysNicole Kassell’s smart debut joins Todd Solondz’s wonderfully icky ‘Palindromes’ and David Slade’s recent Sundance hit ‘Hard Candy’ among a minor crop of new American indie flicks to tackle the subject of paedophilia. ‘The Woodsman’, though, has nothing of Solondz’s cheeky desire to shock nor Slade’s flashy genre trappings. Rather, Kassell adopts a distinctly non-judgemental and sober style to tell the story of Walt (Kevin Bacon), a recently released sex offender who is trying to rebuild his life in an anonymous part of blue-collar America. Full marks to Kassell that the sole stereotypical characteristic of her screen paedophile is Walt’s rather grim side-parting (and we can surely forgive such a tonsorial howler on a man who has spent 12 years in jail, paedophile or no paedophile).
We enter the fray as Walt starts a new job at a saw mill, a favour grudgingly extended to him by his father’s old boss. He has few friends now. His brother-in-law Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) dutifully visits him on occasion, but his sister refuses outright to see or speak to him. The only other caller at his sparse apartment is local cop Sergeant Lucas (Mos Def), whose visits are of the unwelcome ‘I’m watching you, punk’ sort. It’s a shock, then, when gum-chewing, filthy-mouthed co-worker Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick) takes a shine to Walt, even if she knows nothing of his past crimes. It’s even more of a shock when she reacts calmly to his ‘little secret’.
Kassell’s approach is a valid exercise in how to avoid cliché and hysteria on screen. As such, her tale (co-written with Steven Fechter, author of the original play) sometimes veers towards the overly clinical. But this is a small quibble: Kassell, Bacon and co have produced an intelligent and relevant social drama which should, I suggest, be forcibly screened to the editorial team of the News of the World before they embark on their next self-serving ‘paedo-horror’ exposé.
Fri Feb 25 2005