When I see a film I want to be swept away by not only the story but the characters we meet throughout the journey. Now I’ve always been a sucker for a good documentary and even more for a great one.
Going into this film I had some knowledge of what to expect since the director Jeremy Workman had been featured as a guest on the popular Wrong Reel podcast to discuss not only some of his favourite films in a particular year of cinema, but this feature he had spent years working on.
The World Before Your Feet focuses on the incredible story of Matthew Green and his quest to walk every street and pathway of New York City (estimated to be a distance of over 8,000 miles).
During the film Matt is challenged with his motive to take on such an enormous task. Is it for fame or fortune? What will he do for a job given the nature of his task? Where will he stay? How will he eat? Basically all the things we do in our “normal” lives but with the added task of having to fit them around walking miles through a busy metropolis each day.
Not only does Matt carefully plan out his routes each day but he actually stops and takes in what’s around him. Taking pictures of buildings, businesses, murals, plant life, etc. He stops and talks with people about what he’s doing and more so what they do or what it is they are doing whether it’s a community garden or their experience in a neighborhood. The goal here isn’t to set a record for the fastest time to walk all of New York, but rather what is it that makes up New York City in all its glory.
In addition to all this, Matt runs a website tracking his journey, posting pictures with captions that are detailed in research he does every night about what he’s seen from the tallest, oldest tree in the city to the first place to hand out female contraception. In short Matt is building this incredible resource of the city’s history that should be the envy of all tour guides.
He also has fun with his postings and pictures singling out for example barbershops or salons that use the letter “Z” in their business name or 9/11 memorial murals. We’re even introduced to previous girlfriends and Matt’s parents as a sort of insight into what drives him to live this sort of life.
What I think the film accomplishes most though, is not answering the question as to what value does Matt’s mission hold to society and what is its importance. That ultimately doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. This makes Matt happy and fulfills him in a way many people spend their whole lives looking for. He isn’t hurting anyone nor is he a burden and drain on society. If anything, as he relays his story to others I believe it sparks something in them to examine their own life and purpose. It’s the ultimate answer for life itself through the discovery of one’s purpose.
What Workman has been able to achieve with this incredibly inspiring film is the reason documentaries exist. It is the little story that says gigantic things. He masterfully puts everything together to weave such an interesting and unforgettable narrative and I wanted it to keep going for another 3 hours.
Workman also uses the famous Panorama of the City of New York located at the Queen’s museum, expertly throughout the film. Much like the massive and impressive scale model it runs parallel with Matt’s equally massive and impressive journey.
Workman a trouper himself, is also doing plenty of waking in this film but never gets in the way or interjects himself awkwardly. We are literally the fly on the wall day by day as Matt’s story unfolds in a jumble of time. Workman is great at his craft and captures some amazing shots which encapsulate perfectly the things that make New York City such a unique and wonderful place. Another high point is the score by Carly Comando and Tom Rosenthal that further lifts many scenes in an already beautifully shot film.
What Workman has accomplished here is a truly great feat and is a worthy contribution to the best of what cinema has to offer. I’m excited to see what he offers in future films and I hope that this film gains the audience it deserves and I’m confident that viewers will not be disappointed and fall in love with the story of Matt’s incredible journey just like I did.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 9/10
The World Before Your Feet is available to Buy or Rent from iTunes and Amazon Prime (regional variances may apply).