Based on a play of the same name, The Woodsman is a moving tale of a man’s attempt to re-enter society. Walter (Kevin Bacon), a convicted child molester, returns to his hometown after a 12 year in prison, moves into a small apartment across the street from a grade school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick), a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But he cannot escape his past; he is warily eyed by his brother-in-law – Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) -, shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious, verbally abusive local police officer, Detective Lucas (Mos Def), whose role is to make sure Walter is staying away from children. In the movie, Walter must deal with the temptations around him, including the nearby grade school and a young bird-watcher, who he realizes is being abused at home and who helps him understand the damage he has done in the past. He also comes to suspect that a man he has seen watching children near his apartment building is also a child molester.
The movie was shot in Philadelphia, was nominated for the “Grand Jury Prize” award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, won the “Jury Special Prize” at the Deauville Film Festival, and was a featured film at the 2005 Traverse City Film Festival.
What to say of this movie? It is disturbing and unsettling, but it is brilliant, solid, thought-provoking. Kevin Bacon adopts a minimalist acting style, his performance is mesmerizing. Benjamin is characteristically superb and intense.