THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW movie poster | ©2021 Netflix

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW movie poster | ©2021 Netflix

Rating: R
Stars: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeanine Serralles, Mariah Bozeman, Tracy Letts
Writer: Tracy Letts, based on the novel by A.J. Finn
Director: Joe Wright
Distributor: Netflix/20th Century Studios
Release Date: May 14, 2021

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW isn’t shy about referencing the film REAR WINDOW. There’s a clip from the latter at the beginning of the former.

Our protagonist, Anna Fox (Amy Adams), is an old movie buff, among other things. Her viewing choices provide a few clues as to what’s going on. She’s also a child psychologist, though she’s not seeing any patients at present.

The four-story brownstone where Anna lives, in a nice part of New York City, could be great, but she’s let it fall into disrepair. This goes for Anna herself – she’s on a wide variety of psychotropic prescription drugs, which she mixes with alcohol. Anna also has galloping agoraphobia, and hasn’t crossed her front door’s threshold for a year.

Anna has an obliging therapist (Tracy Letts, who also adapted the screenplay from A.J. Finn’s novel) who makes house calls. She also has a basement tenant, David (Wyatt Russell), who does repairs and takes out the trash.

Every day, Anna speaks on the phone to her estranged husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and their young daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman), but doesn’t see them.

Anna’s seclusion is broken first by Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger), a fifteen-year-old who has moved in across the street. Then Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) comes over and has a drink with Anna, allowing for some much-needed socialization.

Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), Ethan’s father, has quite a temper. Anna, using her professional skills at diagnosing problems in young people, suspects Ethan is being traumatized and possibly abused by his parent.

Anna begins spying through her window on the house across the street – and sees Jane being stabbed to death. Naturally, nobody believes Anna, especially when Alistair introduces another woman as his wife Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW has some good third-act twists. Director Joe Wright also commits to an aesthetic that evokes ‘40s and ‘50s thrillers, even though we’re in the present day. He also has an ace cast. Brian Tyree Henry delivers much-needed warmth as a very patient detective, and Leigh finds a few moments to inject some humor.

Adams plays Anna with full conviction, and is unafraid to make her character abrasive at times. This is one of the places where THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW stumbles a bit. A thriller doesn’t necessarily need a likable center, but if we’re going to spend time with someone who’s a challenge, our efforts had better be rewarded.

Because Anna is impaired by mixing medication and liquor, we know that her judgment is impaired. This means most of the audience will be way ahead of her on a few key plot points. It’s not clear if the filmmakers intend to give away so much, but we start getting impatient waiting for Anna to catch up to the rest of us.

Happily, there are some actual surprises and a nice sense of dread as THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW heads into its climax. It’s not as deep as it wants to be, and some of it drags, but at least it finishes strong.

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