Walter (Kevin Bacon) has just been released from prison. He is a child molester, trying to make a go of life after his conviction and punishment. Initially this means going from work, to therapy, to his flat, and keeping his head down. In time, love blossoms between co-worker Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick) and him. His sister won't have anything to do with him, but his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt) keeps in touch.

Kevin Bacon has never been better. His is a masterful central performance that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. He is appropriately unsettling, even creepy, without ever veering towards the facile tabloid view of paedophiles. Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def as a suspicious detective, and Hannah Pilkes as the youngster of the piece, also deserve special praise for the strength of their performances. There are no weak links in the acting.

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Unfortunately, the plot of The Woodsman lets it down, turning what could have been an outstanding film into one which is merely very good. Treading carefully to avoid spoilers, the denouement features an element of rehabilitation and one of retribution. The rehabilitation is a bit too convenient, but is tolerable as it isn't a neat little ending with everything completely fixed. The retribution is the culmination of an awkward plot strand that sticks out like a sore thumb. It creates an obvious baddy in a film whose strength is in daring to allow for grey areas.

Walter is never portrayed in a sympathetic light, but he is allowed to show that he is human. It is accepted that his crimes are terrible, without hammering them home with spooky music and shifty eyes. The first half of the film is fascinating and challenging. The second half can't maintain these high standards, as a way to end the film is sought.

The Woodsman is more than just Kevin Bacon's magnificent performance, but that said, such a powerful and thought-provoking performance deserved even more from the rest of the film than it got.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2006
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A paedophile returns to the terrible normality of life after 12 years in prison.
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Read more The Woodsman reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Nicole Kassel

Writer: Nicole Kassel, Steven Fechter, based on the play by Steven Fechter

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def, Bejamin Bratt, David Alan Grier

Year: 2004

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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