The boldest aspect of director Jeremy Workman's feature doc The World Before Your Feet may very well be the fact that we don't really understand a whole lot more about what inspires the film's central figure, civil engineer turned wanderer Matt Green, by the time the closing credits are rolling and we've spent right around 95 minutes with the curiously inspirational Green.
For anyone who knows me, the fact that I was instantly drawn to The World Before Your Feet won't be a surprise. A bit of a wanderer myself, with over 6,000 miles logged in my wheelchair over the course of my adult life, I tend to feel an instant kinship to anyone who embraces such a journey and, I'd dare say, even moreso when that someone has a hard time explaining why they do it.
That's part of the charm of 37-year-old Green, who is filmed throughout his 8,000 mile, six year-journey to walk every block of every street in New York City. It's a journey that Green can't really explain. It's not a fundraiser. It's not an awareness project. It didn't start off with any notion of a film or a book or a speaking tour to follow. For reasons he still can't explain, Green simply came up with the project and set out to do it.
Having once walked across the country, this latest journey of Green's certainly isn't his first experience with wandering. However, to pull off this particular journey Green had to quit his job, get rid of his apartment and ditch most of his stuff. Having saved up his funds when he was working, Green now lives on about $15 a day and couch surfs at apartments throughout the city at times with friends, at times pet-sitting, and at times connecting with those who've contacted him after hearing about his project.
If there's one particular quality about Matt Green that stands out above all others, it may very well be just how incredibly ordinary Green comes across as being throughout The World Before Your Feet. Green walks with a steady stride, his eyes seemingly always looking outward and his entire being seemingly always ready to greet anyone whom he may encounter. He walks in all kinds of weather, including near blizzard conditions, with most days including several hours of walking often followed by researching and blogging about the various sites, some historical and some remarkably obscure, that he encounters along his way.
While you may think to yourself "Aha! That's it! He's a paid blogger!," Green has an almost painful inability to self promote and it would seem even his blogging, which is remarkable in its detail, has seldom attracted more than a few dedicated readers.
Director Jeremy Workman (Magical Universe, Who is Henry Jaglom?) followed Green off-and-on for three years, amassing over 500 hours of footage that is remarkable precisely because it's not that remarkable. If anything, perhaps, the rather methodical footage becomes a bit tiresome at times. I will confess that when I began feeling a bit tired of watching Green's journey, I forced myself to imagine how he must've felt actually being the one walking.
Yet, the mundane, methodical commitment is part of the brilliance of Green's story. Sacrificing what everyone tells him he should want, Green instead immerses himself in the remarkable power of now and the potential of every moment of discovery, wonder and humanity that surrounds him from historical neighborhoods to neighborhoods that would seem to be potentially rougher to the more upper crust areas of New York City.
Green? He never changes.
Wisely, Workman doesn't avoid the "What about?" questions that are destined to enter your mind as you watch Green's wandering wonder unfold before your eyes. While it's given relatively brief attention, Workman interviews past girlfriends in exploring the relational side of a unique personality who seems to intentionally avoid planning for the future with steadfast dedication to living in the present.
Green's choices may have their downsides, but it's clear throughout The World Before Your Feet that he has no regrets about this path that he's chosen and that he continues to travel.
As someone who traveled for 41-days and over 1,000 miles by wheelchair around Indiana, I often times chuckled with familiarity at Green's experiences, thoughts, conversations and inexplicable dedication. While my own experiences have largely been more missional and related to activism, I found myself returning to my own experiences, my own self-talk, and my own backburner dreams of wheeling across the country or, yes, a vision that popped up a couple years ago to wheel every street in Indy.
I'm telling you... I identified with Matt Green. A lot.
While some will likely find The World Before Your Feet a bit tiresome and repetitive, for those who immerse themselves in Matt Green's magnificent wandering this will be a rich, authentic and utterly immersive experience that will stay with you long after the closing credits have rolled. Rather than being a vibrant and charismatic figure, Matt Green is instead a quiet, unassuming and infinitely compelling one.
It's also worth noting that the film is produced by actor Jesse Eisenberg, an honorary Hoosier as of late.
Easily one of the true gems from the 2018 Indy Film Fest going on from April 26 - May 6th at Newfields, The World Before Your Feet has screenings set for Wednesday, May 2nd at 7pm at DeBoest Lecture Hall and Saturday, May 5th at Noon inside The Toby. For more information on screenings, visit the Indy Film Fest website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic