SXSW Film Review: The World Before Your Feet (USA, 2018) is like the greatest ever walk in the park

Ringo Starr told people to stop and smell the roses. Ferris Bueller also reminded us that life moves pretty fast and encouraged us to stop or we’d miss it. Matt Green is someone who is doing just that. This 37-year-old former engineer is walking every street in New York City’s five boroughs. It’s a journey of over 12,875 km and the documentary, The World Before Your Feet is an uplifting film that captures and celebrates part of this insanely beautiful journey.

This film is written, directed and edited by Jeremy Workman who has previously made films about an eccentric outsider artist and a public transport aficionado. Workman did not begin his walk when Green commenced the trip. But Workman does believe he walked around 1600 km of New York and filmed about 500 hours of footage. This was then whittled down to make this film – which is produced by Jesse Eisenberg – and a final product that is quite a compelling and coherent narrative.

This film is quite literally carried by Green and whether the audience are really on-board for the journey hinges on whether they like Green as a subject. Green does make an interesting – if eccentric – talent and he has missed his calling as a tour guide. He has an incredible ability to recall rich, colourful and historic details about seemingly innocuous locations. He is also an affable guy and his story is quite fascinating to say the least. You will learn a lot, not least how to appreciate the simpler things in life.

The truth is that Green quit his steady job to begin a career as a professional walker. His first big walk was traversing America where he travelled from New York to Oregon and every state in between because both places boast a Rockaway Beach. Green also takes lots of photos and blogs about his adventures. A self-confessed, “Independently homeless” man, he relies on the kindness of strangers and their couches, and lives on a meagre $15 per day using money from his savings and what he earns from housesitting and pet-sitting.

Green is one determined character. But he’s not alone. This undertaking actually sounds very similar to the dogged journey that Ben Carlin completed when he circumnavigated the world in an amphibious jeep, a trip that took around a decade to complete. The World Before Your Feet also includes interviews with two of Green’s fellow walkers including William Helmreich who has also wandered the vast streets of New York (although perhaps not as extensively as Green.) Workman also interviews Green’s parents, brother and two ex-girlfriends to give some indication about his motivations and personality and in doing so, they fashion a rich character study and portrait of a man pursuing something in such a single-minded way despite not having any real justification to even himself for doing so.

While Green describes his trek as an “Exhausting journey through an inexhaustible city” The World Before Your Feet is certainly no labour. In fact, it’s a jaunty, uplifting and inspiring tale that reminds us to live in the present because the future may never come. It’s a romantic idea and a sprawling trip at times but it’s a rewarding one just the same- especially when you get to witness such exciting and diverse cultures, backgrounds, religions, politics and classes. These things make you appreciate the full depth and breadth of humanity and you get a sense of what it’s truly like to be human, not just a human of New York.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The World Before Your Feet premiered over the weekend at SXSW. Its final screening is today. For more details head here: https://schedule.sxsw.com/2018/films/114749