The Woman in the Window, the latest in the long line of best-selling, mystery-book film adaptations, gives Amy Adams the chance to fill the shoes of an agoraphobic shut-in. Many viewers will unintentionally relate as those lucky enough to work from home may have barely left their homes in the past year. The long-delayed drama (thanks, covid!) is based on the novel by A.J. Finn and a script by Tracy Letts (Killer Joe, Bug, August: Osage County) that unfolds the mysteries with power and oomph. The tone brought to mind another Adams project, HBO’s Sharp Objects, and shades of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, while fully carving out its own thrilling brand of suspense, especially in the final act.
When Anna (Adams) becomes intrigued by the new neighbors that move in across the street, she begins spying on them against the behest of her therapist. The Russells seem like a perfect family on the surface. There’s almost 16-year-old Ethan (Fred Hechinger), a sensitive loner in need of a friend; Ethan’s domineering and controlling father, Alistair (Gary Oldman); and Ethan’s quirky but warm mother, Jane (Julianne Moore). Staring through windows and utilizing her camera zoom is certainly preferable to her usual escape through black-and-white films and wine for the past ten months. There is even a moment where Anna tells her tenant, who asks about her Halloween plans, an honest confession: “I’m not going to give out candy; I’m going to turn out my lights and pretend I’m not home.”
It’s perfectly healthy to live vicariously through voyeurism, but a blood-splattered murder leaves Anna reeling. As the sole witness, Anna becomes obsessed—she uses every resource at her disposal to heavily research, deconstruct and prove the validity of her story. As a pill-popping and cat-loving shut-in, nobody will believe Anna—not the cops, not her newfound friend in Ethan, and not even her basement tenant of three months, David (Wyatt Russell). Her world begins to crumble around her as Anna questions whether it’s all one big delusion, or if the murder she witnessed did, in fact, actually occur.
When Anna’s backstory is finally revealed, there is a deep sadness that gives her character rich detail and purpose. Amy Adams (one of the best working actresses of today thanks to incredible turns in movies like Nocturnal Animals, American Hustle, and Arrival) sells Anna’s determined intensity. I was rooting for Anna to succeed every step of the way, and much of this is attributed to Adams’ excellent performance. The rest of the cast is quite good too, with Julianne Moore making the most of limited screen time and Gary Oldman channeling an angry but captivating energy.
Like any of the best mystery thrillers, The Woman in the Window plays its cards incredibly close to the chest. As each question gets answered methodically, it starts a domino effect that culminates in a shocking denouement. It is difficult to discuss some of the most hard-hitting segments of the narrative without spoilers. I would suggest going into this movie as blind as possible.
The Woman in the Window left me guessing the entire time, and even as some of the biggest secrets were revealed, I was left in disbelief. It was only on a second viewing that I noticed the attention to detail and complexities of the script. When a film rewards the viewer on multiple watches, to me, this is the mark of a highly intelligent filmmaker. Director Joe Wright, whose 2007 drama Atonement ranks as one of my favorites, frames key sequences in enticing and visually eclectic ways. Those last twenty minutes are among the best I have seen all year long. With another layered turn from a frantic Amy Adams, The Woman in the Window is a big win for Netflix—for those craving a cerebral, psychological thriller, search no further.
The Woman in the Window cries wolf on Netflix this Friday, May 14th.