Man v nature by Richard Jones

WalkA look at A Walk In The Woods (M)…

TRAVEL author Bill Bryson has been just about everywhere it’s possible to go on this planet but walking 3000 kilometres – well, that’s something else.

He’d grown tired of the way he was ageing. Attending the funerals of friends and acquaintances, going on talk shows, fronting up to writers’ festivals where he had to blabber on about his latest book or memoir.

So what does Bryson (Robert Redford) do? He casts about for a suitable trekking companion for the Appalachian Trail once his wife’s objections have been overcome.

Catherine (Emma Thompson) isn’t just concerned about possible attacks by wild bears or the possibilities of disease posed by insect swarms.

No, she reminds Bryson that isolated trails might also be the sorts of places where murderous drifters hang out.

Just waiting for walkers like Bryson to appear around the bend.

Anyway, those objections are laid to rest. Then out of the blue Bryson takes a telephone call and it’s his old acquaintance Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) on the line.

Katz has heard of Bryson’s plans and wants to be considered as the companion for the walking marathon through America’s eastern states.

They appear to be mis-matched but Redford and Nolte have been together before. They were great in the 2013 movie The Company You Keep where they played long-hidden Weathermen anti-Vietnam War radicals from the 1960s battling to stay ahead of law enforcement agencies.

Here, Katz unburdens himself with a few confessions and periods of regrets, especially when they’re hunkering down for the night.

Bryson listens but his replies are more than a little sardonic. Katz is the talker – Bryson, the listener.

And both of them should pay more attention to fellow hikers. One man tells them to be prepared for an approaching blizzard.

“He’s out of his mind,” says Katz. What do we see in the next frame?

Yep, Bryson and Katz ploughing through snow drifts which reach to their thighs.

There are some other hairy moments, too. At one stage they’re trapped on a ledge and warily peer over to see a huge body of water below.

Bears do put in some brief cameos as well, and of course there’s plenty of natural hazards such as rain, mud and slippery slopes as well as snow.

Additionally there’s an annoyance of the human kind. A pushy, chatterbox hiker (Kristen Schaal) flaunts her superior trail knowledge, particularly about three-season tents as she tries to tag along with ‘Bryce’ and Katz.

They eventually ditch her although her appearance seems to act as a bonding agent for the two ageing males.

We’ve seen a few long-walk movies in recent times.

Reese Witherspoon in Wild trekked the Pacific Coast trail in the USA’s west and then there was the documentary Walking The Camino in which we followed six people pacing along the Spanish pilgrim trail.

This one’s probably more of a man v nature ramble compared with the other two, but all long distance walk movies provide plenty of opportunities for directors and cinematographers to show us stunning shots of a variety of landscapes in different seasons.

And considering Bryson completed the Appalachian Trail trek in the late Nineties when he was just shy of 50 years of age, you’ll have to suspend belief a little bit with Redford and Nolte.

After all Redford, 79, and Nolte, 74, as we speak aren’t exactly spring chickens!


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