Streaming Spotlight - A walk in the woods

We hike through some forest trails and tales

by Amber Wilkinson

The Forest Stewardship Council is celebrating FSC Friday today, aiming to raise global awareness of the importance of responsible forest management. The international NGO is also highlighting the interplay of climate change and forests. If you go down to the woods in cinema you can often be sure of a big surprise - whether its green shoots of comedy or shadowy tales of horror. So this week, we're strapping on our hiking boots and taking a walk through the backwoods to celebrate some of the forest tales you can catch from home. For more information about the FSC, visit the official site.

Wolfwalkers, Apple+ TV

The forest springs to life in the latest beautifully detailed animation from Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, which like their previous work, including Song Of The Sea, reflects myths and history via both its content and its style. Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) has arrived in Ireland with her dad, who is tasked with exterminating wolves in the forest near the town where they live. The youngster's life becomes filled with adventure after a chance encounter in the forest, as she discovers the shapeshifters who can take on both human and wolf form, including feisty Mebh (Eva Whittaker). Appropriately for a film that majors in trees, the inspiration for the look of the film came from 17th century woodcuts - but while this is no doubt aesthetically pleasing for the adults in the audience it's the tale of friendship and bravery in adversity that will hold children in its grip.

A Walk In The Woods, Amazon, Chili

A Walk In The Woods
A Walk In The Woods Photo: Frank Masi
As comfortable and familiar as an old pair of hiking boots, this is the sort of film it's easy to spend an hour or so with. Adapted from Bill Bryson's memoir by Bill Holderman and Michael Arndt, the end result has the warmth of autumn sunlight as we take a mosey along the Appalachian Trail with Bryson (Robert Redford) and his shambling buddy Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). What follows is a gentle examination of friendship and man's relationship with himself, others and nature, although these ideas are part of the woodland scenery, with knock-about humour the main event. Read what Nick Nolte said about the film and our full review.

Koko-di Koko-da, BFI Player, Apple TV and other players

Koko-di Koko-da
Koko-di Koko-da Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
The forest that the couple find themselves in during Johannes Nyholm's film is as much psychological as it is physical, with their trip coming three years after their lives have been shattered by tragedy. Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlund) will soon find themselves menaced - not to mention repeatedly murdered - by an oddball trio who have danced right off the side of a musical box, its tinny nursery rhyme tune - Our Rooster's Dead - also looping itself around the film. If not everything works all the time here, Nyholm nevertheless crafts an unsettling atmosphere that is underpinned by a genuine sense of melancholy and loss. If you like psychological horror films that burrow their way under your skin, then this is for you.

The Adventures of Robin Hood, Google Play, Chili

The Adventures Of Robin Hood
The Adventures Of Robin Hood
Jennie Kermode writes: Packed to the gills with sensational swashbuckling, romance, righting of wrongs, archery, ale quaffing, chandelier-swinging and general derring-do, this classic romp through Sherwood forest features Errol Flynn as the dashing Robin alongside Olivia De Havilland's spirited Marion (with the legendary Trigger playing her horse) and Basil Rathbone at his villainous best as Guy of Gisbourne. Claude Rains makes a magnificently sinister Prince John and every crucial piece of the legend is present in a tightly written story which still finds plenty of room for action. Merchants who strays unwisely into the greenwood are likely to find themselves in trouble as outlaws swoop down from the trees with a cheery cry, and though it may seem twee in places to the modern viewer, it never ceases to entertain. With a swelling score and boundless energy, this is one Oscar Best Picture nominee which has stood the test of time.

Hunted, Shudder

Hunted Photo: Fantasia International Film Festival
Jennie Kermode writes: In one of those weird cinematic confluences that occur from time to time, 2020 saw a slew of films about people being hunted in the woods, but despite strong competition from the likes of Av: The Hunt and Alone, this is the one that really stood out. It follows construction site supervisor Eve (Lucie Debay), who meets a charming man in a bar one night and discovers his not-so-charming side too late, but isn't the type to give up without a fight. As he and his accomplice pursue her through thickly wooded slopes by night and by day, she finds unsuspected succour from a forest which just verges on the magical, never quite stepping over that line, possessing a mythic quality which helps her to find something similar within herself. The man, who was never in control in the way he imagined, is increasingly out of his depth as she becomes determined no just to survive but to fight back with a lifetime's worth of fury. Director Vincent Parronaud turns a survival thriller into a fable which speaks directly to the wildness inside every one of us.

The Kings Of Summer, Amazon

The Kings Of Summer
The Kings Of Summer
Woods often offer themselves up as places of escape and that is certainly true of this enjoyably spirited coming-of-age comedy from Jordan Vogt-Roberts. The trio of teens' dreams of building a house in the woods will doubtless strike a chord with many  youngsters (and quite a few adults) who have wished they could escape their parents, as Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) strike out on their own. Needless to say, things do not go according to plan, with writer Chris Galleta keeping things light and amiable as the boys' survival skills - along, of course, with their friendship once a girl arrives - are put to the test. It might be a bit scrappy in places, but somehow, with these guys, it all just seems like part of the fun.

Violation, Shudder

Violation Photo: Shudder
The forest is a source of primal danger in Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer's intelligent revenge horror, much of which was shot using the natural light of a national park in Quebec. The story of a weekend break for Miriam (played with a fierce intensity by Sims-Fewer) and her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and their respective partners Caleb (Obi Abili) and  Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) unfolds in fragments as one traumatic event becomes the trigger for another. "For us, grounding the film in that in the lighting and the performance style and the violence really helps amplify that experience," Mancinelli told me. Viewers should be warned that he isn't kidding about the violence, a central scene unfolds in all its grim brutality that explores lingering trauma and the limitations of revenge.

And what if the forests simply had enough of being plundered for wood? That's the basic premise for Treevenge, an enjoyable horror short from Jason Eisner (Hobo With A Shotgun), which sees the Christmas trees fight back.

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