A Walk in the Woods Movie Review

I felt drawn to having a quiet evening at home, watching a movie. I enjoy using my Amazon Video app on my phone to select a film by way of Amazon Prime. Tonight the movie that caught my eye was A Walk in the Woods, based on the 1998 book by travel writer Bill Bryson. 

A Walk in the Woods stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. This comedy/adventure/biography was directed by Ken Kwapis and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes. The film is rated R for language and some sexual references. 

Bill Bryson (Redford) appears to have an ideal life. He’s a popular travelogue writer who has traveled the world, and returned to live in the US. He has a long-lasting marriage to his beautiful wife, Catherine (Thompson), and healthy children and grandchildren. He lives comfortably in New Hampshire. And he feels stifled. In the past four and a half years, he’s only written forewords for other people’s books. 

Restless after attending a friend’s funeral, Bill goes for a walk and comes across the Appalachian Trail near his home. An idea is born. In spite of his age, and lack of hiking experience, Bill decides to walk the 2,200 mile trail that  stretches from Georgia to Maine. 

Although his wife and family try to persuade him of the folly of such a trip, Bill persists in his plans. He at last agrees to take a hiking companion. His old friend Stephen Katz (Nolte) begs to go. A recovering alcoholic, Stephen has a couple of warrants out on him and he hopes to lay low for a while, avoiding arrest. Overweight, with bad knees, Stephen makes an unlikely hiker. Nevertheless, the two fly to Georgia in April to begin their adventure. 

Getting off to a slow start, the hike is full of mishaps and bad weather and strange encounters. But Bill and Stephen rebuild their friendship, share funny memories and stumble upon amazing and beautiful vistas. Along the way, they discover that the trail represents life. They have no idea what’s ahead or where they will end up or who they will meet…but they will give the experience their best efforts. 

I was drawn to this movie because of the creative book I’m working through, Walking in This World. There is much correlation to be found between walking adventurously on trails and walking through life. This film captures that parallel well. The relationship between the two old friends was humorous, although at times I cringed over Stephen’s vocalized low opinion of women. As their shared journey continued, Nolte’s character settled down, opened up, and got beneath the wise cracks and generalizing. 

Bill walked through his restlessness and his feelings of being boxed in. Being exposed to nature and the many twists and turns, literally, along the trail, reconnected him with himself…and his creativity and his desire to write. He saw himself differently, and from that position, he was able to see others differently as well. 

I like the John Muir quote that Bill shared: 

“Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.”

Sometimes, we have to break free from that which constrains us and go on an adventure.