Directed by: Jeremy Workman
For no other reason than curiosity’s sake, Matt Green has embarked on a mission to walk every block of New York City, passing through all five boroughs of the bustling, diverse metropolis. You may think he’s chasing and finding nothing with this project, but in reality, he’s found the infinite wonders of his lovely town and the people and historical places that make the experience rewarding. Director Jeremy Workman begins to follow Matt on his intrinsic voyage and lets us take a peek in this uplifting, vérité story about a man’s journey.
The World Before Your Feet is sublime in the way it appreciates location and culture that’s just around the corner. Matt Green is one of a kind, although human all the same, and his perspective in life has geared him up for this passion project (which at the time of the film’s release, is still going!). He was working as an engineer when he decided to just quit his job and begin this tiny project that’s brought on a lifetime of discovery. Some will think he’s a bum for living this way, and on his small blog, he invites you to tell him that. It’s not without good intentions and his sense of community and respect is contagious.
From Flushing, Queens, to Governors Island, the documentary begins and we’re already following Matt on the streets of a beautiful day. He’s observant, friendly, and full of magnificent insight. He sees nature and people mix on a daily basis, sharing the space with them, strolling by every block and corner. He’s even got a keen awareness to it all, even birds. “A lot of times, you don’t hear them ‘cause you’re not listening for them,” he tells the camera as he’s walking along a South Bronx neighborhood. It’s kind of like living in a neighborhood all your life and never noticing the things around you, the cool things just around that corner you never come to pass by. For Matt Green, it comes naturally and Workman makes it so easy to watch and experience it with him.
Influenced greatly by the documentaries from director Werner Herzog, Workman draws out the interesting in people and spotlights that individuality to the big screen. It also helps to have Jesse Eisenberg as an executive producer of the film, seeing as he’s a New York native and fell in love with the film’s rough cut. The most populous city in the U.S. is home to the things that come to dub the country the “melting pot” itself. It’s the people, the culture, the history, the natural elements, and the way they all come together. With the discoveries of culture, Matt stops at a moment’s notice to say hi to kids playing, offer help to others, and check out community gardens all the while documenting his routes by taking pictures and blogging his research onto his site, “I’m Just Walkin.”
He’s essentially homeless, couch surfing at friends’ homes, house sitting for people, cat sitting regularly as a source of income. It explores parts about him as much as the love for the city. We see how this personal endeavor attracted some into his life and for the same reasons, pushed those relationships away. Of course, he’s a three-dimensional guy and the road to his oddly joyous plan to walk 8,000 miles in New York City has taken its minor hits. Nonetheless, Matt finds joy in learning more about the layers of the city’s history and memorial landmarks. The amount of history in one block alone is remarkable. His pictures of local barber shops, plants, buildings, old tulip trees, and piles of trash bags speak for themselves. He’s finding victories in these moments of appreciation and time frames of the unexpected that he comes by. The film chronicles his project in a multitude of interactions, both the retrospective instances and the curiosities from his bystander audience and background.
The World Before Your Feet is as curious for the intangible as it is reflective of blossoming culture and history. It’s an invitation to simple pleasures. The documentary coasts along for an enjoyable watch as this Virginia man turned New York streetwalker explores and relishes in his findings. Workman’s film is a lovely take on the busy city and finds warm spirits all around, as told through Matt Green’s delightful walking project. It’s us observing a wander-lusting, happy wanderer and it’s kind of absorbing.