Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Woodsman 

I'm surprised The Woodsman has received so little attention, as it's one of the best things Kevin Bacon has done - and I think he's almost always excellent. Of course, this may be something to do with the film's subject matter, but I'd have thought that would lead to more rather than less media coverage.

The film portrays a recently paroled paedophile, placed in a small flat opposite a school and given a job in a lumberyard full of other ex-convicts. Right from the beginning everyone expects him to re-offend and the film is to a large extent about his struggle not to do so, while trying to fit back into a hostile society.

It's a very sensitive film about an over-sensitive subject. Bacon's performance is award-worthy, and Kyra Sedgwick - his love interest - was pretty good too. The film managed to portray Bacon's character as someone human, without ever excusing, or even forgiving, what he had done in the past. This is a hard line to tread, as his performance is so good that I often felt sympathetic towards him, even when he was at his least repentant, as, for example, when he spends most of his hours staring out of the window at the children playing below.

The film did finish a little too neatly for my liking, though I won't say quite what happened. I'd expected - and perhaps hoped for - something more like American History X, where the main protagonist realises that Nazism isn't such a good thing after all, only to be shot down by a black boy he's been bullying as he walks to school to tell his teacher how much he's changed. It's not just I'm relentlessly morbid, though of course I am; I simply think that a known paedophile, surrounded by generally nasty and violent people, is probably going to be killed before he ever gets a chance to come to terms with his past.

Nevertheless, a good film overall, and the most sensible I've seen on the subject. A little too moralising, but I doubt we could ever expect anything else from anyone who might want to work again.

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