Announced four years ago and shot in 2018, the film adaptation of Joe Wright’s Woman at the Window is one of the most postponed arthouse films of the last period. The arrival of the Pandemia in Coronavirus unfortunately did not help the distributive fate of the transposition of the novel by AJ Finn, than by skipping the exit to the hall ultimately ended up on Netflix, already available in streaming as we write. The success of the book, three years ago, prompted the 20th Century Studios to quickly acquire the rights to exploit the work, in a few months setting up the production of the film and calling the Londoner Wright to direct, who has just successfully emerged from the experience of Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman.
Being a mainly interior title, the processing did not last long, with a more important commitment instead carried out in post-production, but basically the release of the project was postponed for two years, postponed then ended – as we explained – with the final sale to the streaming giant by Reed Hastings.
The story of the film follows however the psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams), suffering from agoraphobia, a fear of open, unfamiliar or crowded spaces. For this reason, the woman spends all her time locked up at home, in New York, interacting mainly online and with her tenant David except for a few rare visits from her therapist. Intrigued by the new, mysterious and somewhat noisy neighbors, Anna begins to be genuinely interested in the fate of the Russell family, spying on them from the other side of the street, from his window. And it is during one of these peeks that he accidentally witnesses a terrible crime. From that moment, her life takes an unexpected turn and she will first have to convince herself and others not to be out of her mind due to her depression and alcohol and drug abuse. Cos you’ve really seen Anna? Was there really a crime or did she imagine everything?
A listless thriller
In its own way, The woman at the window he wanted and perhaps had to be a sort of instant movie related to the great success of the original novel, but it didn’t. Paradoxically, however, Joe Wright’s film is suitable for these pandemic times, especially looking at the recent past of lockdowns and restrictions, but this does not make it socially useful or successful. Indeed, it is almost the exact opposite, were it not for an extroverted and very curious directorial treatment by the author of Hanna and Atonement, who in a closed system practically devoid of outdoor shots manages to put his own, even trying to play – it must be said, sometimes awkwardly – with the contrasts of light and tone and with CGI.
The painful truth to accept, however, is this: that after the apex reached with The Darkest Hour, with a precise, refined, impactful direction, the Joe Wright of A woman at the window seems to recede until the controversial Pan of 2015, in a succession of accessory visuals and buffers suitable only for an unsolicited but above all unclear touch of authorial extravagance within a film of this genre.
The main problem isn’t Wright though, who does his best to spruce up and customize a spineless thriller with an entirely wasted all-star cast (Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore e Jennifer Jason Leigh ask for justice), as well as the derivative and unconvincing material in the book but above all the poorly articulated script firm of Tracy Letts.
The woman at the window does not invent anything new and rather tries to imitate Alfred Hitchcock’s Courtyard Window, without however reaching the same cinematic and conceptual value as the 1954 film, excessively reasoned to be “a triumph of subjectivity“in a technical as well as a content and elaborate sense to restore a sense of anguish and scarce mobility to the viewer just like that experienced by the legendary character of James Stewart.
This is how similar titles should be thought: with stylistic and authorial criteria, and instead The woman at the window is a clumsy attempt to propose something new in the genre, when there is nothing at all again.
The female perspective doesn’t even play such a pivotal role in the film (and yes Wright is a great director of women), and even the talent and commitment of a convincing Amy Adams they do not help to revive the fortunes of a thriller more convincing on paper than on screen, badly assorted and with a final crescendo (accelerated to a frustrating 1.5x) that becomes almost psychological body-horror, rejecting the viewer even more one step away from the conclusion.