A Walk in the Woods
(M) Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson
A Walk In The Woods is an endearing true story of redemption and friendship, based on the biographic book by Bill Bryson. It has been adapted to the big screen by director Ken Kwapis, to portray a story about life and the many obstacles that any one of us can face – no matter our age.
Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is a world-renowned travel writer, known for his tales of adventures all around the world. When he finally decides to return to America after living for decades around the world, he has all but lost the will to do much at all. Retired, he fills his days with funerals and gardening, Bill decides on a whim to hike the Appalachian Trail. His wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson) begrudgingly allows Bill to go on the dangerous 2,200 mile journey on one condition – he cannot go alone. Once Bill starts his search for hiking partner, an old ‘friend’ and old travel buddy Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) offers his services (even though he is a barely functioning alcoholic, who at any moment looks he is about to keel over). Together, after no training (apart from Bill’s previous trips some 30 years prior), the old and grumpy couple –both in their own version of a late-life-crisis – set off to start the trail in Georgia. The trail they are told, will take about 6 months, through wind, hail, rain and shine. Bill explains that the trail is like life – you never know what is going to lay ahead. As Bill and Stephen discover though, life and your assumptions about it can be very different from those around you, and the obstacles and challenges you must face will never just be a simple walk in the woods.
Unfortunately, the pace of the A Walk In The Woods is about as slow as the two old men walking it. I was patiently and hopefully waiting for something to happen the entire film. Some jokes made by Nick Nolte were more slapstick than movie script, there were a couple of falls and maybe an insightful line or two by Robert Redford – but that was about it. Having not read the books I can only go off what was portrayed on screen to me; which to be honest, wasn’t much at all. The depth of the characters was so skimmed over, you barely understood why Bill decided to walk the trail in the first place. Nick Nolte was a nice awkward comedic relief, but even his character’s storyline was brushed over (missing an opportunity for what could have been the most humorous and interesting part of the story).
The entire film was basically a tourist information guide for the Appalachian Trail – where and how to buy your gear, how to not get eaten by bears, and why perhaps it isn’t the best idea to go on a 6 month long hike at age 65 with no recent hiking experience or training. I’m not saying this is entirely a bad thing – the landscapes, natural beauty and panoramic views were real highlights of A Walk In The Woods. There just wasn’t enough though to overcome the poor script and painfully slow story progression (probably because there wasn’t any story or plot to begin with).
There is a kind of sympathy and lovable admiration for the characters though, which I think is what Kwapis has tried to achieve through the meandering speed of the film. The focus is purely Bill and Stephen, and how two different people with completely different life views and experiences, can come together to appreciate life’s beauty in its spontaneity. Their journey brings hope to the rest of us that maybe we can find the courage to take a chance, and walk the road less travelled.
What does the Bible say about fidelity? Hebrews 13:4
What does the Bible say about friendship? Proverbs 18:24