‘THE Woman in the Window’ is a thriller based on a novel by A.J. Finn (who in real life is uncovered as a con artist named Dan Mallory, but that’s another story), written by Tracy Letts and directed by Joe Wright. Letts won the Pulitzer and Tony for his play “August: Osage County”. As an actor, he has appeared in “Lady Bird”, “Little Women” and he also now plays the psychiatrist in “The Woman in the Window”.
Wright directed such acclaimed films as “Atonement”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Darkest Hour”. “The Woman in the Window” (totally different from the local Chito Rono film “Ang Babae sa Bintana”) is reminiscent of such films as Hitchock’s “Rear Window”, De Palma’s “Body Double” and Caruso’s “Disturbia”, where the lead characters are cooped up inside their house because of some reason and believe they witnessed a murder while watching their neighbors. There’s another “The Woman in the Window” flick shown in 1944 with Edward G. Robinson.
In “Woman”, Amy Adams (who’s been nominated six times at the Oscars but never won) plays Anna Fox, a psychologist who lives solo in her New York apartment and has agoraphobia, which is the fear of going out in the open. She spends her time watching old movies and many film clips are shown here.
Her psychiatrist visits her regularly and as she tried committing suicide after being separated from her husband and daughter with whom she talks on the phone every now and then. It’s an interracial marriage as her husband and their child are black.
The story happens in a span of one week, from Monday to Sunday. Since she suffers from anxiety, Anna takes a lot of medicines, but she also drinks alcohol. From her living room window on the second floor, she can see her neighbors. A new family has just moved in the apartment across the street. The 15-year old son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger), visits her to give her a gift and she invites him in.
She learns than his dad, Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), is a cruel man who beats up the boy. The next night, the mother, Jane Russell (Julianne Moore), visits Anna and they shared some drinks. Then Alistair himself comes to her apartment asking her if any member of his family has visited her and she denies it.
The next night, she sees Jane being stabbed by someone in the apartment across. She reports it to the police and the cops come along with Alistair and family. Anna is shocked to see that the Jane presented to her as Alistair’s wife is not Julianne Moore, but is now played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
They all say that nobody was murdered and even a man who lives as Anna’s tenant in the basement, David (Wyatt Russell), claims he didn’t see or hear anything unusual. Anna has a meltdown and when she regains her senses, she is told that her husband and daughter have actually both died in a car accident some time ago.
Anna is apparently just having hallucinations due to the medications she is taking with alcohol. She then apologizes to the cops and to the Russell family for her wrong suspicions. And this is as far as what we’d share with you about the story. Anything else would be a big spoiler. Just prepare yourself for more surprises as the film further unfolds.
The whole film is set inside Anna’s apartment, giving it a claustrophobic feel. The material would actually work well as a stage play with a persistent sense of tension and impending danger, just like “Wait Until Dark” which has a blind heroine.
Amy Adams plays her role as the isolated woman, whose only contact with the outside world is through her window, with total conviction. As her curiosity about her new neighbors turns into obsession, we want to scream at her to stop meddling with them. But when she sees something violent and reports it, we somehow sympathize with her when the cops won’t believe her reports.
Gary Oldman is wasted in a role that asked him to do very little, but Julianne Moore shows how astute an actress she is. She appears only in one long scene as the mysterious Mrs. Russell, but she is so effective she makes a very big impact. Fred Hechinger as their son also acquits himself well as a boy with his own dark secrets.
The movie is the kind of thriller critics love to skewer for its plot contrivances but honestly, it worked for us up to a certain point. We think the choice of a protagonist who is unreliable because she might just be mentally ill is calculated. She might be deranged from having severe psychological and emotional trauma, but we cannot just easily write her off as the film’s heroine.
It ultimately becomes her goal to prove her detractors wrong for not taking her seriously. Somehow, you wish she didn’t have agoraphobia, so she could have easily ran out of the house to rescue Jane from being stabbed or chase the kids who are vandalizing her home on Halloween night. Will she be redeemed and get vindicated in the end? Well, that’s for you to find out. Let’s just say that we’re happy with the story arc as it gives the movie quite a strong finish.