Written by: Tracy Letts
Starring: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt Russell
As a piece to any home, windows serve as something to allow light in and view the outside without actually having to leave the comfort of one’s home. However, it comes as a double-edged sword as those from the outside can peer right back in. It explains why I mostly keep mine closed, but becomes integral to what The Woman in the Window wants to explore with its schlocky thrilling elements all held together by painter’s tape and falling apart almost in a comedic manner.
Suffering from her agoraphobia, meaning she’s afraid of going outside, Anna (Amy Adams) likes to spend her time looking out from her window to see how others around her are doing. When she spends an evening doing this again, she sees a murder take place and when she tries to get help from the police, it appears what she may have seen is being put into question.
Running in line with Rear Window, these voyeuristic films play into humanity’s curiosity to see what others do, especially when the subject believes no one is watching. From the practice of sitting in an outdoor cafe to just watch people passing by to pulling out binoculars to do so like Anna, we naturally have this inquisitive and nosy nature. The Woman in the Window exploits this to set up all of the confusion this film sets to seek as we follow a character who struggles with her mental health and perhaps to the point where she may be hallucinating.
The visage we initially get of Anna simply outlines a woman with the fear of going outside, but as the film continues to peel back the layers of what else she struggles with and her past, it gets to a point where we cannot rely on how she perceives the world. Yes, it may appear as her truth, but when things begin not to match up with reality, we’re left in a place of starting to doubt if anything she has seen before actually occurred or represents another hallucination. Following this thread does add some intrigue to the story, seeing as unreliable narrators create more interesting storylines to follow.
However, when it comes to fully executing its story, this feature really falls apart in the most ridiculous of ways. With the many reveals occurring in this film either justifying or refuting Anna’s claims, it never materializes into something worth all of the build-up. When the major reveal arrives, it comes as part of an underbaked aspect of the story. Yes, it became a shocking reveal mostly because having this be the reason why everything occurs makes very little sense or has any strong thematic point it attaches to. Coming from a very popular novel, my wife insists this occurs much better in the text but having no knowledge of what occurs, it just feels incredibly lackluster to the point where it gets laughable with its underwhelming quality. You almost just have to laugh but also get angry that it makes the entire film feel like a waste of time.
With Joe Wright stepping into the director’s chair for this feature, it simply never came together as a good match. Wright remains a defining director for his period pieces that have dazzled throughout his career but when he takes these ventures into more modern storytelling, his voice feels out of place. This does not come as a dig or me trying to keep him in a specific lane, but the pattern remains fairly clear. As expected, his style simply does not work in capturing the paranoia of the feature and certainly did not assist Amy Adams in the way she needed by essentially letting her drown out there. Visually boring and a story only getting dumber by the minute it would be fascinating to learn what got him to take this one on.
Filled with potential for what it could have been, The Woman in the Window pretty much falters as it tries to piece together its story. The actors, who have plenty of talent between them, get hung out to dry by the script and the odd directorial choices by Joe Wright. I guess you could say he was “Joe Wrong” about choosing this on. Get it? So much gets left on the table as the film does not develop this story to the point where the reveals actually make sense and further enrich everything leading up to it. The way it comes together here just went for shock value for the person you expect the least. Just a shambolic project overall.