The Woodsman Nicole Kassell

The WoodsmanNicole Kassell
You have to give The Woodsman top marks for bravery — not only does it have the stones to give us a sympathetic child molester, but it also attempts to probe the grey areas in allowing him back into society. Unfortunately, it stops dead when it comes to answering its own questions.

Kevin Bacon is the reprobate in question, freshly out of jail after a stint for molesting prepubescent girls; he tries his damnedest to go about his business, but the stigma attached to his crimes make it impossible to go back to a normal life. He has a couple of defenders (David Alan Grier's mum employer, Kyra Sedgewick's strangely unfazed girlfriend), but his secret will soon be out; worse, his barely-repressed desires are coming back to haunt him.

To be fair the film (based on a play by Stephen Fechter) does its best to elude the hysteria that normally heralds the arrival of this subject, but that doesn't mean it actually succeeds; it merely inverts the standard self-righteous chest-beating, filling us with the same frenzied emotions with just as little intellectual payoff. There's some disturbing stuff here, to be sure, and a couple of standout supporting performances (particularly Mos Def as the obligatory unsympathetic cop), but a cloud of faux-indie vagueness settles upon the production, making it impossible to divine a position beyond "support your local sex offender."

The Woodsman also features one of the most puzzling climaxes in recent memory, contradicting everything that came before it and offering an easy out for an increasingly complex protagonist whose motives ought to be better fleshed out. We probably aren't at a point where this subject can be handled without people freaking out, but this unconsidered screed isn't going to get us there any faster than the average tabloid editorial. (Alliance Atlantis)