Arriving on Netflix today is the new psychological thriller from director Joe Wright. The movie – The Woman in the Window – stars Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore and Wyatt Russell – and tells the story of a psychologist, who believes she has witnessed one of her neighbours being assaulted, in a house across the street.
In the movie, Amy Adams plays Dr. Anna Fox – a brilliant yet troubled psychologist, who suffers from a number of issues, including severe agoraphobia. Anna drinks too much, takes prescription pills, previously tried to commit suicide, and hasn’t left the house in ten months.
Despite her inability to leave her home, Anna befriends her new neighbour, Jane Russell, who calls at her door one evening. Anna and Jane spend some time together – they converse, share a drink, and play cards.
The next day, Anna hears a scream coming from Jane’s home. She telephones Jane to check everything is OK, only to be told by Jane’s husband that she is mistaken and everything is fine.
Things then escalate the following evening, and Anna witnesses what she believes is a violent attack on Jane in her own home. She calls the police, but when the detectives arrive, they tell her that Jane Russell is alive and well, and from what they can tell, no attack took place.
But the woman claiming to be the alive-and-well Jane Russell is not the same person that Anna previously made friends with. So, who was the woman she befriended and more importantly, did somebody really get attacked in the house across the street?
The Woman in the Window is based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Finn (aka Daniel Mallory). The movie was originally due to arrive in cinemas in 2019, but was pushed back to 2020 for some additional work, and was then shifted on to Netflix in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The additional work required on the movie was down to some reshoots, which were scheduled following early test screenings. According to reports, the original cut of the film was a little too confusing, so alterations were made to ensure the story was much clearer to audiences.
And the story is clear, once the entire mystery unfolds. But to get to the resolution there is a lot of head-turning, mind-bending confusion thrown into the movie, to keep audiences guessing along the way. The central question is, did Anna really see an attack in her neighbour’s house, or is she having some kind of mental breakdown?
This is essentially a mystery-thriller, which places Anna in the centre of the tale, then slowly teases out its story beats to build up tension. It shares similar ideas and themes to other thrillers of the past, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), and wants to confuse and baffle audiences with some twists, a few turns, and a spot of misdirection.
For the most part it works and there is a lot to like in this picture. In terms of its presentation, its visual aesthetic, and its cinematography, this is an incredibly captivating and engrossing movie.
The Woman in the Window is a slow burning tale, but a slow burner with much to keep things interesting. It goes to great lengths to make audiences feel the psychological journey that Anna goes on, and this is achieved through various off-kilter angle shots and a good use of dimmed lighting, to create a sense of confusion and brain fog.
If I was to talk about this movie purely on its visual storytelling techniques alone, I would say this is a great movie – and one filled with strong ideas. However, I need to talk about the story itself, and the all-important mystery, and that’s where things begin to fall apart.
After a significant amount of build-up, The Woman in the Window does not deliver on its premise. The resolution is somewhat underwhelming, and by the end, it all feels a little rushed.
I had a sense that whatever changes were made following those early test screenings in 2020, that some parts of the movie were perhaps diluted – specifically the ending, to streamline things. And if that isn’t the case, then this is the area of the movie which should have been given a bit more attention during the editing phase, because it feels rather anti-climactic.
A film which spends so much time putting a story into motion, really needs a huge pay off. The Woman in the Window would have benefited from another ten or 20 minutes to balance out the top-heavy nature of the narrative.
Earlier I mentioned that this movie is similar to Rear Window – and it is – but it is also feels very much like the film, What Lies Beneath. The Michelle Pfeiffer/Harrison Ford thriller from 2000 also boasted a lot of style, and a great deal of build-up, but it too lacked a killer ending to bring things home, and that’s all I could think about as The Woman in the Window came to an end.
But despite my issues with the climax of The Woman in the Window, I largely enjoyed what was on offer. It is a film that has clearly been made with a lot of love, and a great deal of attention to address all of the psychological aspects of the movie.
Amy Adams is fantastic in the lead role, and there is much to see on screen in terms of the setting and some of the camera choices. I have no doubt this will be a movie that will be studied in various film classes, and discussed as a perfect example of how to capture someone’s mental state on film.
So, slightly flawed and not quite as good as its premise, but this is still an enjoyable picture. All of the imaginative stuff far out-weighs any missteps, and the visuals really add something to the experience.