The Woman in the Window is based on a mystery novel and it certainly has been given the standard thriller treatment.
Published on May 21, 2021
Rating 2 /5
It’d be too easy to merely write off The Woman in the Window as a Rear Window knock-off. It has all the same elements. A shut-in who glues herself to the window with a camera. A crime across the street. A paranoid sense of being unable to prove that crime. An intense atmosphere that brims with Hitchcockian terror. And, of course, the inclusion of Window in the title. The good news is that the film has plenty of other qualities to distance itself from the classic comparison. The bad news is that it fumbles much of its thriller allure.
Amy Adams plays Anna Fox, a former child psychologist who now lives an isolated life in her Manhattan brownstone. While suffering from agoraphobia, she shuts out the rest of her life, including her husband and daughter. To pass the time between her therapy sessions, she takes great interest in what’s going on in her neighborhood, viewing it all from the comfort of her many windows. Her latest interest is her neighbors across the street of the Russell family. He meets the matriarch and later their teenage son Ethan, a shy but curious kid who shares Anna’s interest in movies.
However, as she talks with Ethan, the topic of abuse comes up when he mentions his father, Allistair (Gary Oldman). Anna cannot prove this but decides to spy on the Russells for any proof of abuse. Well, she finds a bit more than that when she witnesses one night as Allistair’s wife is stabbed to death. Though she initially calls the police, Anna is shocked that Allistair already has a new wife with the same name. Or did Anna just dream of the murders and misremember his wife? She has to know more and decides to set up an independent investigation.
The direction of this film feels as though it’s being pushed through the retro thriller suite, digging up visual staging and camera shots that were far more popular in commercial thrillers of the early 2000s. The camera zooms close in on faces and pulls out ridiculously fast from close-ups. The plot also gets rather twisty with distortions of Anna’s mental state, the way her depression and addiction to wine makes her question her own sanity. Of course, Anna will be proven right but not until a shocking revelation is made and only when the film is ready for its action-heavy climax of her fleeing from a knife-wielding killer.
The Woman in the Window is based on a mystery novel and it certainly has been given the standard thriller treatment. It has some unique reveals but also some awkward staging to make the film feel more stylish to give it a Hitchcockian or Fincher edge. The twisty plot is decent if you can get into that find-the-twist mode of murder mysteries. The casting is also not too shabby with Adams and Oldman delivering fiery performances of clashing egos. The end result, however, is a thriller that feels rather by the book in more ways than one.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.