The Woman in the Window, the latest Netflix original to hit the streaming service, on paper should work given the star power and talent from the cast but on screen, doesn’t amount to much with how much potential is presented. Much of the talented cast don’t add much substance or value to the overall story in director Joe Wright’s film, some of the characters are there just to exist in the world. Beyond Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) none of the characters are given a chance to even matter – they’re all disposable to the mystery surrounding the “murder” Anna witnesses. For one – Detective Little (Bryan Tyree Henry) is given no objective, he has nothing to do. Maybe it’s different in the source material (I haven’t read it) but it goes to show how useless every supporting character is.
The premise of The Woman in the Window is intriguing enough, you might see it as a modern-day Rear Window by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, but I’d even take the 2007 film Disturbia over this. Here, Anna is a single woman, separated from her husband Edward (Anthony Mackie) and living in their brownstone in Manhattan. Anna suffers from agoraphobia caused by a car accident and chooses to witness life from behind her curtains where she sees the new neighbors move in across the street. Not all is as happy as it seems, turns out, Anna takes a lot of medications and willingly chooses to drink alcohol with them which can cause hallucinations.
This story, written by Tracy Letts is based on the novel of the same name by author A. J. Finn. The Woman in the Window fails to deliver on the promise it sets up. Most of that can be traced back to the screenplay. For one, the movies pacing is haphazard – almost taking a good 45 minutes of the 100-minute runtime to get its wheels turning. Essentially the first half of the movie is the tortoise, and the second half is the hare.
We aren’t given a reason why Anna has agoraphobia until well into the second act of the movie. It’s understood that Anna and Edward are separated but that’s not true at all. Why not lead with that? Her mental illness would make a lot more sense and not leave the viewer in a confused state while piecing together the events of the story from the main character who is also in a confused state. And once the film turns from a mystery / thriller into a straight up horror film does any of the events that may or may not take place make any sense whatsoever.
Amy Adams carries The Woman in the Window for majority of the film, depending on who you ask, the entire film. The tragedy that makes up her past makes Anna sympathetic and thus form an emotional connection with her throughout this drug induced journey. Anna is a deeply damaged person, and her sanity or lack thereof controls her actions. What works in Tracy Letts’ screenplay is the mental illness aspect and how certain events can affect someone’s psyche. Anna is so far gone in her reality that she only sees one possible option for herself – it’s a difficult position she’s put herself in especially when Anna accuses Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman) of murdering his wife Jane Russell (Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh). The mind is a dark and disturbing place and the shot selection and cinematography capture that darkness perfectly. Each camera shot adds a sense of claustrophobia to it as if the viewer is trapped in this reality that Anna creates as a result of her medication.
But as the film establishes early on, Anna cannot be trusted even with her inner thoughts. Everyday she’s speaking to Edward and her daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman) giving the impression of one thing while it may not be as it seems.
For a murder mystery thriller, The Woman in the Window is pretty plain and predictable. From a mile away it can be spotted that Ethan (Fred Hechinger) is the villain. Alistair is too easy a choice as the villain and would have been an insult to the viewer. Usually, the character that screams the loudest isn’t the villain, it’s always the quiet ones. The genre switch would have worked better if the thriller aspect landed. Much of the events are anticlimactic, especially the outcome of Anna’s tenant David (Wyatt Russell).
As much as The Woman in the Window is a disappointment that had so much potential behind it, what really saddens me is the fact that Wyatt Russell and Anthony Mackie don’t reunite after starring in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier together. The Woman in the Window is a serviceable thriller at best – it exists but like majority of the straight to Netflix films it will be forgotten rather quickly. It’s really a shame, I wanted to like it, the film has its moments, although brief and fleeting.
The Woman in the Window is written by Tracy Letts, directed by Joe Wright is Rated R and has an 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Woman in the Window was released on May 14, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes. The Woman in the Window can be streamed on Netflix. 1.5 out of 5.