Joe Wright goes full Hitchcock in this captivating and intense mystery, departing from his recent work. There’s something quite striking about how The Woman in the Window builds intensity. Centered around this one house, the brief glimpses of the outside world are limited to the main character’s perspective into the neighbors across the street. Here, domestic squabbles ensue, resulting in a shocking turn of events that leaves one startled and alarmed, just like the lead herself.
Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is agoraphobic, she has extreme fears about leaving her home. Her daily routine consists of drinking, taking pills, and watching classic Hollywood films. Everything changes when the Russells move in the house in front of hers. After her suspicions are raised from a shouting match, Anna begins to monitor them. She soon witnesses something she shouldn’t have while zoomed in on her camera. She proceeds to call the Police, but the Russell family denies all allegations. This forces Anna to find more evidence to prove that she’s not losing her mind like everyone thinks she is.
Amy Adams is wholly absorbed in her character’s terrifying state of extreme paranoia. Her methods of exuding fear almost act as an extension for how the spectator is told to feel. As the mystery deepens, one starts detailing the moments that lead to the inciting event, trying to make a clear-cut picture that cannot be formed. This is a testament to writer Tracy Letts and director Joe Wright (Darkest Hour), who adapt the story from the 2018 novel of the same name. Major credit is also due to the film’s suspenseful editing.
The Woman in the Window often becomes a dizzying experience as one is plunged into Anna’s mind. Sequences of no dialogue, just action, occur as intense arguments in the film’s narration splinter what one believes to be reality. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography brilliantly captures the confined and lonely nature of the leading character’s consciousness. Filled with dreamy yellows, stark reds, and piercing moonlight, Delbonnel executes the uneasiness and nerve-wracking feel of the film to great effect.
It would be criminal to not acknowledge the obvious nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography, it’s clearly influential here. The basic plot structure of The Woman in the Window is remarkably similar to Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). A person is confined to their home, they start to spy on a neighbor using a camera, and stumble upon a shocking revelation. It’s the same, although modernized in style. It doesn’t feel like stealing, it’s more of a nostalgic act. However, Rear Window isn’t the only Hitchcock and James Stewart film that this borrows heavily from, there is a strong hint of Vertigo (1958) as well. The lead character has a condition, which limits their view of what’s truly happening. They must overcome their predisposition to make sense of events, which both Vertigo and The Woman in the Window amount to.
Furthermore, straight-up homages occur on screen as scenes from Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), which this film is also inspired by, play along with flashes of James Stewart, Lauren Becall, and Humphrey Bogart’s voice. The Woman in the Window‘s inspiration is obvious and what it does with it is interesting, albeit not quite as pristine. Essentially, it’s a digitization of those films, in the sense of lighting, camera, and plot mechanics.
Nevertheless, The Woman in the Window is riveting with Amy Adams in top form. She is joined by a great supporting cast, News of the World‘s Fred Hechinger is particularly good. Joe Wright’s direction is constantly solid and he gets the best out of all the film’s aspects. Even though it may not be as good as the aforementioned classics, it still stands out as a very well-made, incredibly tense addition to 2021’s roster of films, which is just only getting started.