Film: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window (2021) may be a brand-spanking new release, but it was produced a few years ago and feels like something that could have been made in the 1950s. Riffing on the shut-in-witnesses-a-murder genre pioneered by Rear Window, the film stars Amy Adams as Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist living alone in a ramshackle Manhattan brownstone. Separated from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman), Anna is clearly a troubled soul with a bad habit of self-medicating her anxieties with an unsafe cocktail of antidepressants and alcohol. Anna can’t bring herself to leave the house, but her interest in the outside world grows when new neighbors move in across the street: the Russells—father Alistair (Gary Oldman), mother Jane (Julianne Moore), and son Ethan (Fred Hechinger)—all of whom eventually come over to introduce themselves. It soon becomes clear, though, that something isn’t quite right in the Russell house, piquing Anna’s interest and ultimately making her—thanks to her sketchy mental state—an unreliable witness to murder.

The Woman in the Window doesn’t even pretend to be doing anything new, which works in its favor; cagily, director Joe Wright peppers the film with relevant classic thriller footage from the movies Anna watches, cluing in the viewer to the cinematic ancestry in play. This situates the viewer’s expectations for the film, which isn’t just structurally old-fashioned, but socially. Do friendly neighborhood interactions happen in big cities any more? They do here, as Anna casually invites strangers like Ethan and Jane, not to mention her ne’er-do-well basement tenant David (Wyatt Russell), into her home. It suggests simpler times, while also enabling a series of visitors to enter the disarray of Anna’s enclosed world to keep the plot moving. That plot, while far-fetched and contrived, is also well engineered, an intricate mystery tableau that possesses enough internal consistency to sell itself. The cast, which also features Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jeanine Serralles, is first-rate. It all feels a little derivative and unoriginal, but it’s not bad for its type, an enjoyable, pulpy diversion.

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