Filming the story of a paedophile is often as welcome as showing how to skin cats alive a lot of people just don't want to see it happen, let alone pay money to witness it. But The Woodsman is a very courageous film for the lengths it goes to show the rehabilitation of someone the world has difficulty understanding and accepting.
Blessed with an impressive cast of well-known actors and a powerful script, first time director Kassell had everything she needed to convert this to the big screen. Based on the play by Steven Fechter, the film follows Walter (Kevin Bacon), a convicted paedophile who has just returned to society after spending 12 years in jail for child molestation. Of course, Walter isn't given a free ride to a new life people quickly find out about his crimes and he learns how unforgivable his actions were, primarily through his family's unwillingness to see him.
Kassell and Fechter, however, felt this should be an opportunity for audiences to view the transformation from monster to human. Walter learns to socialise and is given a spunky girlfriend (Bacon's real life wife, Kyra Sedgwick), a full-time job at a lumberyard and a friendship with his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt). The story shows hope for such an individual but at the same time it comes too easily for him. Walter constantly finds himself challenged by a local cop (Mos Def), his abusive co-workers and an elementary school across the street from his apartment (which forces heroic, not criminal, actions out of him), but it's nothing he can't deal with.
Where the challenge comes in for the viewer is to dislike Bacon in his role. (Keep in mind he is playing a paedophile.) As one of Hollywood's most reliable actors, Bacon does his best but the result is a character anyone can like. Maybe this is a petty complaint for such a brave attempt, but I can't help but wonder if truly creepy actors like Crispin Glover or Steve Buscemi would have transformed this role and film into something more significant. (Alliance Atlantis)