The Woman in the Window, directed by BAFTA award-winning Joe Wright, is Netflix’s latest headlining psychological thriller, boasting a star-studded cast and a premise bound to catch the eye of any The Girl on the Train fans out there. Wright combines the intensity of a murder mystery, the intrigue of an unreliable protagonist, the breath-taking work of composer Danny Elfman and the cuteness of a fluffy cat (my personal favourite), to create a promising narrative that propelled the movie to Netflix’s Top 10 Most-Watched.
Sadly, however, The Woman in the Window fails to properly meet the standard of the work we’ve come to expect of Joe Wright, and the same can be said of the A-listers we see throughout the film. It pains me to critique the work of such well-respected actors, but unfortunately, the star-power supplied by the likes of Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, and Julianne Moore is still unable to take the film out of the depths of Netflix Original failure.
Based on A.J. Finn’s 2018 novel of the same name, The Woman in the Window tells the story of agoraphobic child-psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams) whose housebound state leads her to an obsession with her neighbours, particularly the newly-moved-in Russell family comprising of parents Alistair (Gary Oldman), Jane (Julianne Moore) and teenage son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger). Following the befriending of both Jane and Ethan, Anna suddenly witnesses what she believes to be Jane’s murder on Halloween Night, only to see the Russell family the next day with a different (and very much alive) woman claiming the name ‘Jane Russell’. Anna’s obsession with the family intensifies as she begins to spy on the Russells, determined to prove Alistair as the murderer of the woman she befriended, and the abuser of his son, Ethan.
At risk of completely exposing the many twists and turns this movie entertains, I shall attempt to refrain from completely indulging in giving away the rest of Anna’s story – after all, where is the fun in exposing ALL the plot twists?
Viewers slowly learn more about Anna’s complex mental state as her curiosity deepens and her interactions with both her downstairs tenant, David (Wyatt Russell), and teenage neighbour Ethan, become more and more complicated. True identities are not as they seem, and relationships are revealed to be stranger than anticipated – those watching are left questioning their ability to trust any of the characters, especially the protagonist, well before the credits role.
A pretty good premise, right? That’s what I thought. It seems to be a combination of Paula Hawkins’ novel, turned major movie The Girl on the Train (as previously mentioned) and Gail Honeyman’s novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, two very popular stories we’ve seen rise to the top of their fictional mystery genre – we know this narrative formula works well! The Woman in the Window, however, seems to go slightly further than simply being inspired by these two stories, it appears almost a replica of them, with similar narrative details and plot twists.
I found myself expecting the major twists and turns of the plotline well before they happened throughout my time watching, which was a great shame considering the film’s identification as a murder mystery. The parallels this film had with The Girl on the Train, in particular, began to rack up as the film progressed, unfortunately leaving me fully aware of where the story would venture next. A fact that didn’t bode well for the rest of the film.
Having said this, the predictability of the narrative shifts was slightly dampened by a couple of factors that, in my opinion, saved The Woman in the Window from outright cinematic plagiarism. The quintessentially sinister soundtrack of Danny Elfman’s creation certainly did not disappoint and maintained the exceptional standard he is so used to achieving – his ode to the Hitchcock classics did not go unnoticed and the tension remained strongly intact throughout the film thanks to his musical genius.
In terms of the acting itself, I cannot ignore the strong performance of the ensemble cast. Although I felt she was dealing with recycled material, Amy Adams managed to deliver a believable performance, complemented by a reasonable attempt from Hechinger and Oldman to play the slightly dysfunctional family unit. I question Julianne Moore’s believability as the nosy, obnoxious housewife type, and Hechinger’s age of 15, but perhaps that is just me. Only a few small problems with the acting choices in my eyes, but unfortunately, even this star-studded cast (as wonderful as it is to see such big names all in one place) was unable to remedy the major problems evident in the storyline department.
Apologies Netflix, but it was a flop for me.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flikr