CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

"The Woodsman" confuses the sin with the sinner.

In 1991, I was an Ethics Teacher at Cardinal Newman
High School when AIDS was new curriculum in the
classroom. The Archbishop of the Palm Beach Diocese
visited my classroom and the students began discussing
the Kimberly Bergalis Case. Kim Bergalis was a victim
of a dentist who had suffered from AIDS. The dentist
kept practicing
his dentistry. When the student expressed outrage
over the dentist’s behavior, the Archbishop replied,
“Hate the sin,
not the sinner.”
The Archbishop’s words are the theme of "The
Woodsman," a daring movie that will be both
celebrated and abhorred.

After serving a 12-year sentence for child
molestation, Walter (Kevin Bacon) is released. While
on probation, Walter goes to work in a lumber mill. A
bit of a loner, Walter begins exploring a sexual
relationship with Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick, Mrs. Bacon in
real life). Vickie is a brash tough-as-nails broad
who can out cuss any lumberjack.

Shunned by the family, Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) is
Walter’s only family connection. Carlos is a father of
a 12 year old girl, the same age as of Walter’s
victim. Walter is visited by the inquisitive Sergeant
Lucas (Mos Def), who suspects Walter of a rash of
child abductions.

Without a dangling knife or exploding entrails, "The
Woodsman" becomes a thrilling psychological drama.
The suspense grows from the question, “Will he?” or
“Won’t He?”
Director Nicole Kassell adds some artistic touches to
"The Woodsman" that avoids exploitation. There is a
bouncing red ball that echoes Fritz Lang’s German
classic "M" starring Peter Lorre as a child
murderer. The word Woodsman serves as both a double
ententre to Walter’s profession and as an allusion to
the fairy tale "Snow White."

Best know for his comedy, David Alan Grier is
believable in a serious role. Mos Def oozes contempt
for Walter’s pedophilia, but does not let his
prejudice influence the cop's code of justice.
Benjamin Bratt also creates a full character with
limited screen time. Kyra Sedgwick sinks her teeth
into the role of the abrasive, but vulnerable Vickie.

Bacon is no stranger to portraying vile characters,
given his work in "Hollow Man," "JFK," and "Wild
Things." The actor manages sympathy for Walter’s
demons, both old ghosts and anticipated terrors. By
avoiding audience pity, Bacon makes his Walter a
realistic and grounded character. Yet given his
exposure in previous movies and his wife’s nudity in
this movie– one must wonder the therapy bills the
Bacon kids will need after seeing their parents in
"The Woodsman."

A disease like pedophilia comes down to choice. As of
yet, there is no cure for this addiction. Like
alcoholism, the choice is a daily battle for the
infirmed mind. While I can heed the words of the
retired Archbishop of the Palm Beach Diocese, the man
who said those words also haunts me. That same
Archbishop, Keith J. Symons, resigned his position in
1998 after admitting to having sexual relations with
young boys early in his career. Sometimes one
confuses the sin with the sinner and that is what
makes "The Woodsman" so thought provoking.
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