Returning home to Philadelphia after a long jail sentence, paedophile Walter Rossworth (Kevin Bacon, pictured) tries to build himself a new life. Taking a job and renting a flat, he begins to attempt a normal existence. Social interaction is difficult, but when his boisterous colleague Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick) latches onto him, they become lovers. Angry at his sister's refusal to meet, Walter feels old temptations returning, and encounters a young girl, Robin (Hannah Pilkes). He also notices the activity of a man loitering by the local school, and is forced to decide which path to tread in order to chart his destiny...
One scene of The Woodsman - the second meeting with Robin - encapsulates its power. Devoid of judgement or sensation, it sketches two broken lives, and plays out with a squalid lyricism that refuses to shift from the memory.
Bacon's been here before as a victim in Mystic River (2003) and a rent boy in JFK (1991). He's also played the demon in Sleepers (1996) and the child-snatcher in Trapped (2002), which helps to explain the awesome performance he conjures to portray a man riven by an identical duality.
Released in 2004, and possibly a career-best turn from Bacon, The Woodsman begs an audience to respond with more than just pure revulsion, addressing the ultimate taboo with an even-handed intelligence. The scenes with Sedgwick are electric, while Mos Def has a surprisingly sharp cameo as the cop on probation duties. Director Nicole Kassell shows a rare skill for building tension and developing character.
Preview courtesy of C4