The Woodsman, 4/28/17, 4 Stars.
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.