Like any long walk, the documentary “The World Before Your Feet” makes some interesting stops, has a lot of dead spots in between, and will leave you equally educated and exhausted.
The long walker in this case is Matt Green, who for six years (by the time the documentary finished filming in 2015) had followed his plan to walk every single street in the five boroughs of New York City. Recording his routes on his smartphone and taking pictures as he goes, Green documented his many encounters with average New Yorkers as he pursued his offbeat and solitary goal.
Along the way, director-editor-cinematographer Jeremy Workman (“Who Is Henry Jaglom?”) drops bits of Green’s biography. A former engineer, Green opted out of the rat race to start these walking tours, first crossing America and now surveying the Big Apple. He doesn’t own or rent an apartment, instead couch-surfing with friends or cat-sitting in exchange for temporary lodging. In one segment of Workman’s episodic narrative, we learn that he was engaged before his walking days but broke it off, and had a girlfriend who grew tired of his lack of interest in “normal” things like going to the movies.
What interests Green is the minutiae of city dwelling, whether it’s the different birds that live in the city or the way many barbershops put a “z” in their name. He has chronicled interesting gravestones in cemeteries, historical markers all over the place, and a vast and varied number of 9/11 memorials.
Workman depicts Green as someone who makes friends easily, and on his walks he ends up sharing a beer in a backyard barbecue in the summer and joining a snowy street football game in the winter. But Workman has difficulty answering the movie’s most basic question: Why does Green want to do this? Workman takes some stabs at getting to that essential truth, but Green’s elusive handling of the question — partly out of being a bit inscrutable, or because he doesn’t know the answer either — leaves the viewer wanting more from this confounding tour guide.
‘The World Before Your Feet’
Opened November 21 in select cities; opens Friday, December 7, at the Tower Theatre (Salt Lake City). Not rated, but probably PG for mild language and images of the 9/11 attacks. Running time: 95 minutes.