The Woodsman  (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Woodsman is a controversial film from an unknown writer/director. The script obviously impressed real life couple Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon enough that they agreed to work in it, despite what must have been a minimal payday by their standards.

Kevin Bacon plays a confessed child molester who gets out of prison on supervised parole after twelve years of hard time. The film examines his struggle to live a quiet blue collar life unnoticed, and his greater struggle to deserve that life by keeping himself under control. His parole officer and several of his co-workers believe that a child molester is always a child molester.

This complex script doesn't give the audience the easy out usually afforded by a Hollywood film. In the typical mainstream film Bacon would  be a reformed man who, having paid his dues, is faced with the blind and unwarranted prejudice of a large segment of society. In this film he is a paroled convict who, having paid his dues, is faced with the perfectly justified prejudice of a large segment of society. He is still a child molester in the sense that an alcoholic doesn't stop being an alcoholic. He knows in his heart that he is still a child molester, because he still has sexual feelings for young girls, and we actually see him act on those feelings, falling short of physical contact with the willing victim not because of his will to exercise restraint, but only because he was suddenly touched by something the little girl said.

We see that although he is essentially a good man, his demons are very real.

The key dramatic conflict does not revolve around the prejudice of society, but whether he can conquer himself. The conflict is developed by four circumstances (1)  Bacon is about ready to molest a little girl, until he realizes how much pain she carries from being molested by her own father (2) Bacon sees the pain he causes through a mirror, another child molester who is stalking a playground in view of Bacon's window (3) a new girlfriend (Kyra Sedgwick) learns about his problem and tries to help Bacon get assimilated into normal life (4) Bacon talks to his psychologist throughout the film.

Of course, very few people will ever see this subtle, multi-dimensional, nuanced and unresolved drama about child abuse. It's a difficult subject which is not treated superficially, and the story has no ending. Not exactly a popcorn film! I suppose it will never reach even 100 theaters. That's reality, but something of a shame, because it is a smart script which really tries to understand the problem and manages to coax a brilliant performance from Kevin Bacon. Although we see him act on his sexual urges toward a young girl, and we do not have any hope that he is suddenly "well", we do see him make progress and feel, along with him, that he might have a chance. 

If you think the premise of this film is intriguing, you will probably be impressed by the execution as well.


DVD info from Amazon

  • full-length director's commentary

  • three deleted scenes

  • interview with the producer about how the film came together


  • Kyra Sedgwick shows her breasts in one scene, and does a second sex scene in her t-shirt and underpants.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: three and a quarter stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. A good enough movie (85% good reviews), but one which appeals to a tiny audience (28 theaters in the entire United States).

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