Ken Kwapis’ film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is a visually and emotionally captivating movie that will stir-up all of your inner existential curiosity and wanderlust.
Starring Robert Redford as Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz, A Walk in the Woods perfectly captured Bryson’s original “life’s too short” message. In both the book and the movie, Bryson is a has-been travel writer who, though he has a family and a financially sound career, is clearly missing some part of his older life.
Bryson, a 60+ year-old man, decides to hike the Appalachian Trail one day. Confused but notably supportive, his wife allows him to do so after finding a friend willing to accompany him on his journey. This friend, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), plays a huge role in the movie by not only acting as a comparison to Bryson, but as a smooth reminder of what Bryson was when he was younger.
Bill Bryson, an aloof but thoughtful man, and his bombastic companion Katz wander through the AT on an indescribably profound journey at the end of their lives.
If you’ve never hiked the Appalachian Trail, read the book or contemplated the meaning of life, the sheerly visual aspect of the film will bring you to the edge of your seat and encourage you to strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail.
Scenes from Bryson’s home in New Hampshire to Max Patch captivate and motivate the viewer as he or she watches two old men work their way through life’s biggest mysteries as well as the physical challenges of America’s most grueling hike.
With an all-star supporting cast of Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, Emma Thompson and Mary Steenburgen, even the less profound, less moving parts of the movie have an irrefutable entertainment value that is perpetuated by comedy, visuals and a lifelike sincerity.
In an impeccably relatable yet never cliche plot, Kwapis and Bryson beg the question, “can you truly have it all?” by sending the lead characters on a desperate, post-middle-age attempt to find themselves and the underlying meaning of life by having both Bryson and Katz battle with their own perceptions of the other’s happiness. The “grass is always greener” mentality shared by Bryson and Katz is shattered throughout the friends’ trying trek from Georgia to Maine.
This existential and all-too-familiar quest makes the young audience feel more at ease for not having figured it all out and the older audience at peace for still not being completely fulfilled.
The remarkably tantalizing views of the Appalachian Trail, the adventurous tales of Bryson and Katz’s past and the comfortingly recognizable insecurity of the main characters make A Walk in the Woods a must-see for anyone ready to explore life or its meaning. The profundity of their battles with alcoholism, friendship and marital bliss make this a relatable film for nearly all suitable audiences.
Justifiably R-rated, the film does contain a substantial amount of graphic language and sexual innuendos that should be reserved for mature audiences. Otherwise, whether for an outdoorsman or someone transitioning through any stage of their life, A Walk in the Woods will enthrall the open-minded viewer and likely inspire them to consider a 2,100-mile hike; I know it certainly made me pine for some mud in my boots and wisdom in my life.
To contact Lifestyles editor Rhiannon Gilbert email firstname.lastname@example.org