Film Reviews

‘The World Before Your Feet’ and the Sidewalks of New York

I love New York. Don’t you?

Matt Green walks in Long Island City, Queens
Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment

The World Before Your Feet
(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Jeremy Workman

I love New York. Do you? If the five boroughs appeal to your sensibility, you’re going to enjoy the new Jesse Eisenberg produced documentary The World Before Your Feet. If you don’t, this film is unlikely to appeal to you

Matt Green, the protagonist in this doc, has given up his day job to do what his heart desires: to walk every foot of New York City. A cheerful, presentable 30-something, Matt doesn’t like to talk very much about himself or his motivations for his quest. Apart from admitting to a bad bike accident and a couple of failed love relations, Matt’s major trauma has been dealing with a very sick brother who is now recovering after surgery in Chicago. But, as Matt admits, all is fine now. So there’s no particular answer for the question: What makes Matt Walk?

The director Jeremy Workman understands this, so his film quietly records the observations of an intelligent, friendly individual who feels compelled to walk the 8000 miles of New York. We see Matt deal with everyone in a cheerful, non-threatening way and his reward is a totally injury free journey through the city’s roughest patches, in the South Bronx and parts of the ungentrified areas of Brooklyn.

Matt keeps a blog in which he uploads photos and writes historically researched texts (as well as diary style essays) about his travels. He discovers graffiti style memorials to 9/11 in every borough. Matt finds beauty in nature and is excited to discover flowers, fruit, vegetables and trees growing through NYC’s concrete jungle. He finds great architecture and visits the city’s vast cemeteries.

What does it all add up to? Who knows? But the journey in this doc is fun and insightful—and so is this film.

The World Before Your Feet opens Feb. 8 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
For a second take on the film, read Tara Hakim’s review here.