Our hidden sexual desires sometimes challenge our sense of morality and the way we accept our flaws and embrace our limitations makes us the better people we strive to be. Much sensitive and uncomfortable as the subject is, The Woodsman is the chance Kevin Bacon has been looking for, all his life, to prove he is an exceptional, talented performer. Every now and then - Sleepers, Mystic River- we are reminded of his ability to shape powerful, remarkable characters and today's movie is a display of good directing and marvelous performing.
Disturbing, emotional subjects make a difficult choice, yet young Nicole Kassell was fearless, delicately drawing Walter's character. He is a man who spent his last 12 years in prison for molesting young girls. Now he is out, a parole officer breathing down his neck, a nosey co-worker spreading rumors about him, a warm-hearted woman in his bed, an apartment facing a playing ground and his own lack of trust. Can you find in yourselves to watch the movie in a non-judgemental way, in a non-biased manner? How much empathy can you feel in your hearts? Apart from watching a well-directed movie and some incredible actors at work, this is the challenge: to question your own sympathy towards such a delicate matter and ask yourself whether such people are beyond retrieval. Are human enough if you forgive or if you condemn?
The movie is great in the way it takes no sides, neither blaming nor finding excuses for Walter. It does not try to embellish reality or turn him into a new man. He is constantly under the fear of having his past exposed, being taken by surprise by the promise of love and scared by probably the first relationship with a woman. The police officer pays him countless visits, reminding him of how easy it is to relapse and how anxious he is to watch Walter fail. The movie points at how offenders are likely to follow the same pattern since there are no second chances for them. In real life, kind women do not wait around the corner to save them from the wicked path and deliver their tormented souls. In real life, redemption does not come freely and mentalities are hard to change. In a way, it is understandable since pedophilia is perceived as being worse than murder; it's the absolute sin of depriving an innocent child of his future.
The Woodsman is a bold movie for pushing our humane limits and compelling us to mirror ourselves and question the world around us. Kevin Bacon is acting his pores out, embracing the character with every fibre in his body, totally immersed in coping with himself, his deed, his guilt, his life. He is an anti-hero, pitiful and humble, fear exulting from his every move and word. He is honest to his girlfriend about his past -Kyra Sedgewick plays the abused woman who grew up and overcame her past- and honest in the way he is fighting his urges. We don't know if he is going to make it although his reaction towards another molester he catches red-handed proves us to be wrong. He rejects the kind woman besides him for fear of being himself rejected because he feels like a haunted animal. In one of the most excruciating scenes of the movie, Walter meets Robin, an innocent little girl who likes to watch birds. It is the key to the movie. It is about our frailty as human beings, about our vulnerability and hope for a betterment. Painful as it might be, The Woodsman is a movie to be watched; it is our chance to find a bit of our lost humanity in it.