Disney princess-esque Amy Adams branches out once again in this psychological thriller, based on the 2018 New York Times best-seller of the same name. Many may be familiar with Adams’ early career in films such as Enchanted (2007), where the audience was encouraged to see her as light-hearted, comedic and fun Giselle, rather than one to take on serious or darker roles. However, over the last decade, she has continuously broken the type-casting barriers – to mention a few: Sci-fi Arrival (2016), thriller Nocturnal Animals (2016), and recent Netflix drama Hillbilly Elegy (2020).
The Woman in the Window, from the outside, follows the tragic life of a woman isolated from her husband and young child, as well as the world, due to her aggressive agoraphobia. But on the inside, behind the window, the story is much more layered and depressing than the audience could imagine.
Child psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams) lives alone in a grand Manhattan apartment, with an ominous tenant called David living in the basement. Anna is trapped in a depressive space and spends her days drinking, taking pills, and innocently spying on her neighbours. To her interest, a new family moves in across the street; The Russells become Anna’s new obsession, as she starts to believe they are hiding things. Her initial curiosity quickly overtakes her lonely life, and everything progressively unravels when she seemingly witnesses a murder at their apartment – right before her eyes… well, camera.
It is obvious that British director Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window is an attempt to modernise iconic Hitchcock films, predominantly Rear Window (1954) – with clear parallels made throughout, and Wright unashamedly uses film noir and 40s thriller traits which show the audience what Hitchcock might have made in 2021. The homage to old Hollywood was enjoyable enough, but what starts as an intriguing premise, with tons of narrative potential, ends up a bizarre concoction of Psycho (1960) attributes, Scream (1996) references, and a melodramatic plot ‘twist’, also arguably predictable, which didn’t do the film justice.
Adams does a great job of powerfully leading the film, alongside similarly impressive performances from Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore, though their roles in the film are rather brief due to the focus on Anna’s character and her isolation from reality and people. In retrospect, her isolated lifestyle becomes a sort of social commentary due to the lockdown lifestyle of reality at the moment – so maybe postponing the film until now was a clever move. But, for this film, the claustrophobic set is cleverly used to heighten the trauma and depression that Anna is experiencing.
Truly a gripping watch, with interesting creative choices, cinematic homages, a well-executed storyline, and a sensitive representation of mental health and grief. The disjointed stylistic features, however, did let the film down slightly, but the overall impression of this much-awaited film was positive – and if it had a different ending, it would have just given it more of a chance. But instead, we got a 90s slasher movie vibe, complete with a killer scraping a knife down a bannister. Alas, without a Scream mask.
The Woman in the Window is out now on Netflix.