Film Review: The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window
Director: Joe Wright
Fox 2000 Pictures
Streaming on Netflix 05.14
The new major release from Netflix, The Woman in the Window, is based on the novel by A. J. Finn and is one that has piqued my curiosity for reasons different than most. This past year of social distancing and staying at home has been frightening to me because I’ve worried about it becoming an addiction. I’ve spent my whole life fighting the temptation to do those things every single day because, like this film’s protagonist, I am agoraphobic.
The Woman in the Window stars (Amy Adams, Enchanted, Arrival) as Anna Fox, a child psychologist who lives alone in a house in Manhattan. She finds her agoraphobia to be so severe these days that she is literally incapable of stepping outside. She has a boarder, David Winter (Wyatt Russell, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) renting a room, and her psychiatrist (Tracy Letts, Little Women) does house calls, but otherwise, the closest thing she does to socializing is speaking to her estranged husband, Ed (Anthony Mackie, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Detroit) and her daughter, Olivia (Mariah Bozeman) over the phone. But when the mysterious Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour, Mank) and his family move in across the street, she finds herself keeping tabs on the windows of her New York City brownstone. Her life is turned upside down when she inadvertently witnesses a brutal crime.
The Woman in the Window is blatantly trying to be an homage to Alfred Hitchock, with a little bit of Vertigo and a whole lot of Rear Window, and that could have gone either way, especially with Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour) in the director’s chair. Wright is a skilled filmmaker who, too often, is undone by terrible choices—Anna Karenina and Pan are both on my all-time worst list—but he really has a sense of what he’s trying to do here, and it makes for an entertaining throwback. Adams is fantastic as Anna, making her sad and pathetic while, at the same time, engaging and even relatable.
The Woman in the WIndow gets some definite points from me for being the first film I’ve ever seen that even comes close to portraying agoraphobia in a way that feels like someone involved had done some research. Yes, this is still agoraphobia in a movie as opposed to the real thing, but it’s a lot better than I expected, and the screenplay, by Letts, is well-written and involving. The supporting cast is stellar—in particular, Julianne Moore as Alistair’s wife, and Wyatt Russell as the friendly but increasingly frazzled tenant.
Oldman is verging on over-the-top, but the role calls for it, and he and Wright have a good sense of exactly how far to take it. Fred Hechinger (Eighth Grade) is effective as Ethan, the Russells’ skittish teenage son. It must be said, however, that while superhero crossovers are to be expected when so many comic book movies are made these days, if you can manage to watch this movie without ever thinking about the fact that Lois Lane married one Captain America and is letting another live at her house, you’re less of a geek than I am, which may be a given.
But The Woman in the Window is Adams’ and Wright’s film, and Wright has an incredible team behind the camera, including the great cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. Delbonnel never got the credit he deserved for the part he played in making Oldman’s performance in Darkest Hour work by lighting the entire film in such a way as to complement the makeup job rather than harshly exposing the imperfections. Editor Valerio Bonnelli (Florence Foster, Jenkins, Philomena) and the national treasure that is composer Danny Elfman make for a memorable imitation of Bernard Herrmann.
The Woman in the Window gets a recommendation as a movie that does the job it set out to do, and it’s made with enough skill to be worth watching multiple times to study the craftsmanship. It’s not a true classic by any means, but it’s better than most of what we’ve gotten in May so far this year and is one of Wright’s best films by a clear margin. But I do wish Netflix had released one in theaters, because for me, there would be something wonderfully poetic about leaving the house in order to experience it. –Patrick Gibbs