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Woodsman, Bad tackle sensitive topics

The Woodsman

The Woodsman’s audience shifts restlessly throughout the film. Popcorn bags rustle, jaws tighten and the possibility of sitting calmly lessens as the film dives further into the mind of a former pedophile. Yet, director Nicole Kassell never pushes the audience too far.

One man’s struggle to piece together his life and tarnished reputation after 12 years in prison is the subject of the intriguing film.

Kevin Bacon stars as Walter, a former pedophile who tries to adopt a new life as he is released from prison on supervised parole. His good work ethic prior to sentencing allows him to step back into his job at a lumberyard.

After many difficulties finding a landlord who would rent to an ex-convict, Walter finds an apartment across from a school. At his job, he falls for a rough-around-the-edges co-worker named Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick). Walter’s struggles continue to increase as Sergeant Lucas (Mos Def), who is waiting for a reason to put Walter back in prison, constantly badgers and scrutinizes him.

The film delicately handles the subject of child molestation. Walter is constantly faced with challenges, and society seems to be waiting for his failure. His reputation haunts him as he tries to change. He constantly asks his therapist in the film, “When will I be normal?”

The most outstanding feature of the film is the cast. Bacon’s portrayal is haunting, moving and real. He evokes sympathy for a character that could otherwise be despised. His performance is reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s in Monster. Sedgwick plays Vickie with a mix of rawness and vulnerability that draws attention. Mos Def takes the small role of Lucas and makes it shine. He is tough and unrelenting, but still has the ability to be likeable.

Because it deals with child molestation, it is difficult to say that The Woodsman is a great film. However, it is thought provoking, intense and very well acted — all components that make it a quality film worth seeing.

Bad Education

Two friends are reunited after 16 years of separation only to discover dark, twisted secrets about their childhood and its ramifications on their adult lives in Bad Education.

Acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) brings a tangled tale of sexual abuse, deceit and ambiguity to the screen. Bad Education is the story of movie director Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez), who, by chance, encounters an old school friend, Ignacio. Ignacio is now an actor who prefers to be called Angel (Gael Garcia Bernal). Angel gives a story he wrote about their childhood to Enrique in hopes of turning the story into a film.

At this point, the film becomes a mix of truth and lies. It flips back and forth from Angel’s story to reality, and as the plot unravels it examines the relationship between Enrique, Ignacio and their former teacher, Father Manolo.

Bad Education is not a comfortable experience. It explores many sexual relationships, and subjects considered taboo. The graphic nature of the sex scenes leaves the audience feeling unsettled. Bad Education tackles the sensitive subject of inappropriate relations between religious figures and schoolboys. Several characters have issues with drug abuse, blackmail and murder. It does all this unapologetically and with gusto. Needless to say, not a film for the whole family.

The film features outstanding performances. Bernal does triple duty playing the part of three integral characters. Martinez is equally talented and plays the role with the necessary blend of anger and innocence. The supporting actors are perfectly cast and give remarkable performances of their own.

Overall, the film looks lush and has wonderful cinematography. The music is a very striking feature; it sets the tone and intensity to match every scene. With such terrific performances and perfectly fitting music, the subtitles become almost unnecessary.

Bad Education is very dark and complicated, and is sure to stay with viewers for weeks after the film.