‘The Woman in the Window’ Review: Amy Adams Stars in a Peeping Tom Thriller Gone Wrong

After a series of delays, reshoots and rewrites, The Woman in the Window is finally showing on Netflix, but is it worth the wait? 

Amy Adams. Image via Netflix

The Woman in the Window, directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice), is based on a 2018 novel of the same name, written by Daniel Mallory (under the pseudonym A.J Finn). The film  delves into the life of an agoraphobic woman, Anna Fox (Amy Adams), who was previously a child psychologist. From her self-enforced seclusion, she occasionally calls her estranged husband, Ed (Anthony Mackie) and her daughter, Olivia (Maria Bozeman). A woman confined within the walls of her red brick building, wine and drugs are her only acquaintance, including the old movies she watches on repeat. Her home is an arena where she meets and gossips with her psychiatrist, Dr. Landy (Tracy Letts) about her neighbours. Anna’s routine check on her neighbours reveals the newly-moved-in neighbour, the Russells , who catches her attention, especially when their son, Ethan, (Fred Hechinger) a friendly but yet hysterical teenager, shows up.

As a psychologist, Anna could smell something fishy from her conversation with Ethan, or maybe that’s just the result of the thoughts of a demented woman. This prompts her to spy on the Russells, with the consumption of  alcohol and medication that shouldn’t mix in hand. She meets with her neighbour, Jane Russell (Julian Moore), and they have  a little bonding time until spying Anna peeps through her window and finds her newly found friend with a knife sticking out of her stomach. She reports the incident to  911, but  on arrival, the police  find  no knife, no blood and no friend. But there’s a Jane Russell who doesn’t look one bit like her friend. The traces of her alcohol addiction are all over the place when the cops arrive and all the world sees is a crazy alcoholic who is probably making up this murder up in her head. Did Jane’s husband, Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), make another woman impersonate his dead wife or is Anna just hallucinating? These questions keep troubling the mind of ‘pills and wine’ Anna until she finds clues around the house which makes her realize that she is not so crazy and might just be telling the truth. 

Amy Adams and Julian Moore in The Woman in the Window
Image via Netflix

The plot of The Woman in the Window takes place in Anna’s confined house and this might just be the movie’s greatest flaw. The movie is basically about a messy woman walking around in oversized clothing with the cliché premise that  her activities such as a few calls will possibly be a hallucination. The movie might just make viewers want to take a walk out of the house after the claustrophobic experience, as the dowdy appearance of Anna etches a vivid mark on our minds. Wright effectively depicts Anna as an unhinged woman who solves her trouble with alcohol and pills. But the repetitive portrayal of her inadequacies makes the film more tiring and boring. Like, we get the gist, give other characters room to do something. The movie is not something one reflects on after watching but a movie you would wish to end once you get the hang of it. I wouldn’t know if the director tried to depict  all the events in the novel on screen. But one thing is certain, A.J. Finn didn’t write a bestselling book that readers could sniff out the killer from miles ahead. After the murder in the movie, the characters become  more shady, a means to make viewers suspect each of the characters— even down to crazy Anna. 

The Woman in the Window failed just like Samuel L. Jackson’s Twisted. Both are thrillers that set out to be devoid of predictability but fail woefully. The Amy  Adams movie remained predictable despite trying  hard to make unnecessary characters build up its suspects list. The mystery of the murder couldn’t be sustained till the very end  even with such efforts.  David (Wyatt Russell), Anna’s basement tenant, falls into this category with his grim look and penchant for appearing out of nowhere. Then the movie pulls a ‘you wouldn’t know he is the killer’ stunt to amaze viewers, a reveal that can be deduced if one takes a closer look at each of the characters’ forced acting. Maybe the movie would have been more compelling if it took  the whodunnit route.  Knives Out comes to mind, a 2019 movie, in which the identity of the murderer is  not revealed until the end. It just keeps one guessing till the film’s denouement.

Maybe Lonely Crazy Anna is the killer
Image via Netflix

This psychological thriller is filled with colours that could distract viewers rather than hold their attention. Even though Anna likes it dark— with her dimly lit rooms— when the swirling patterns are employed to help frame Anna’s unstable state of mind, there’s a combination of colours which can prove to be disturbing to viewers. The director aims to depict that even when Anna knows that she is almost at the brink of self-destruction, she doesn’t stop her pills and wine habit— a ploy that could have been achieved without the usage of such colours and swirling patterns.

The 1hr 40min film tries to make you think hard but fails to do this and all you will ever want to do is to make the whirling journey stop. It would have fit earlier in the pandemic during the peak of lockdown when people were confined to their rooms, looking around for just anything to ease their boredom. Nevertheless, The Woman in the Window has the high tendency to make viewers feel uncomfortable and terrified of confined places, but not because it hits the mark as a psychological thriller.

Rating: 5/10

Side Musings

  • Anna Fox’s newly found job as a ‘spy’ was some of us during these past months of the COVID lockdown. I guess we shouldn’t blame this cooped up woman for knowing all the routine of her neighbours right across the street.
  • Anna Fox doesn’t deserve Punch, her cat, amidst her screaming and running around like a possessed woman. No wonder the cat hides away at every little chance she gets.
  • I don’t know if this seems weird, but the cat’s face actually reminds me of the orc general that led Gondor war in Lord of the Rings.

The Woman in the Window is currently streaming on Netflix.

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