The World Before Your Feet

 

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A film in which walking the streets takes on a wholly new meaning.

 
World Before Your Feet, The

  

Embedded within this documentary is a mini-biopic of its central figure, Matt Green now aged 37 and living in New York. This aspect emerges bit by bit as we meet his parents in Virginia, his brother and two former girlfriends whose relationships with him failed even though one of them became his fiancée. What wrecked both relationships was the fact that Matt, while the most amiable of men, has an obsession which dominates to such a degree that it has become central to his life. Once, back in 2010, he spent five months walking across America but that was no more than a precursor. For the past six years or more and having given up a job as a civil engineer he has devoted himself to walking the streets of New York with the aim of covering every block in the five boroughs. This occupation has taken over to the extent that he has no abode of his own preferring to stay with friends or in the homes of those who employ him as a sitter for their cat or dog. As for food, he largely gets by on such basics as rice and beans. All of this is to enable him to walk 8000 miles or more observing New York City, taking photographs and blogging about what he has seen.

 

His is such an extraordinary life that one feels that the film ought to have investigated his history and what makes him tick, but the biopic element is brief and relatively superficial. Instead Jeremy Workman's film sets out to invite the viewer to share Matt Green's eye and to relish what he observes of nature and of the city. For some that may be satisfying in itself especially if they are familiar with New York City and consequently better able to appreciate the details that fill the film. But, while Matt embraces the idea of walking at random and is happy with that, for the filmmaker to adopt that same approach is to my mind terribly limiting. The film is well photographed but it continually jumps around from place to place and back and forth in time. There is no sense at all of the contrasted features of each borough and very limited quotations from the historical research that accompanies Matt's blog. He speaks readily to those he meets but their exchanges are mainly banal rather than illuminating. Two other comparable walkers are seen but they appear very briefly even though one, Garnette Cadogan, being black and from Jamaica, is able to comment on how his appearance makes him need to take an approach when walking the city that is very different to Matt's.

 

The World Before Your Feet is certainly idiosyncratic and no run-of-the-mill documentary and, since it is the brave first choice of a new streaming platform, True Story, it is to be hoped that many will find it more rewarding than I did. It does have the unusual virtue of improving in its later stages becoming less bitty and incorporating longer set sequences (one focuses on a single day in Manhattan, another brings together visits to numerous cemeteries in the city). Yet for me this served to underline the lack of structure earlier - but Matt Green is certainly a man who has opted to devote himself to finding something that he loves doing and there may be many people who on seeing this film will be inspired by that.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Matt Green, Garnette Cadogan, William Helmreich, Nicky RodrĂ­guez, Carolyn Bricklin-Small, Barry Green, Miriam Green, Jonathan Green, Jason Eppink, Daniel Fleischer.

 

Dir Jeremy Workman, Pro Jeremy Workman, Screenplay Jeremy Workman, Ph Jeremy Workman, Ed Jeremy Workman, Music Carly Comando, Tom Rosenthal, Max Avery Lichtenstein, Helen Jane Long and Rhonda Mackert.

 

Greenwich Entertainment/Wheelhouse Creative-True Story.
95 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 27 November 2020. Available on True Story. No Cert.