Imagine a suspenseful journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, capturing your attention every step of the way. Netflix’s latest release, “The Woman in the Window,” offers just that. Drawing inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Rear Window” and other classics, this gripping thriller, directed by Joe Wright and written by Tracy Letts, takes viewers on a suspenseful ride as an agoraphobic woman witnesses a murder through her neighbor’s window.
Starring the talented Amy Adams, along with a stellar cast including Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Woman in the Window” has finally made its way to streaming platforms after facing numerous pandemic-related delays and doubts from 20th Century Fox. The result? A suspenseful tale evoking the spirit of “The Girl on the Train,” complete with unreliable narrators and unexpected plot twists reminiscent of Brian De Palma’s 80s thrillers.
But beyond the film’s references, behind-the-scenes struggles, and critical reception, let’s delve into the heart of the matter: the ending. What secrets lie hidden within the story’s intriguing mysteries? Was Dr. Anna Fox truly losing her mind, or were others mistaken? Who is the real killer? And what role does the enigmatic feline, Punch, play in all of this?
Unmasking False Identities
The first surprise in “The Woman in the Window” is not the sudden appearance of blood on the camera lens, but the revelation that the character portrayed by Julianne Moore is not Jane Russell, Anna Fox’s neighbor. Jane, who helped Anna after she experienced an agoraphobic episode, spent hours with her, drinking wine, taking pictures of the cat, and sharing personal stories. Although Jane never explicitly identified herself, Anna assumed her identity, and Jane didn’t correct her.
As we later discover, the woman Anna believed to be Jane is, in fact, Katie. She is the biological mother of Ethan, the Russell family’s teenage son, played by Fred Hechinger. Katie abandoned her husband, Alistair Russell (Oldman), when she was eight months pregnant and disappeared. Two years later, she was found in a drug-addict commune. Alistair took custody of Ethan, and Katie went to jail. Since then, the Russell family has been on the run, trying to keep their distance from Katie. Anna also learns that Katie spent the night with her basement tenant, David (Wyatt Russell), but he is not involved in the convoluted family drama.
With Katie seemingly rebuilding her life after her prison stay and reconnecting with her son, she faces opposition from her ex-husband. So, where does murder fit into this equation? Could Alistair Russell really have gone to such lengths to get rid of her? All signs point in that direction, leading Anna to believe just that. However, the truth takes time to reveal itself.
Guilt and Repressed Memories
Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that Dr. Anna Fox is not in the best mental state. Constantly drinking, mixing medication with alcohol, prone to paranoia and hallucinations, it becomes challenging to distinguish between what she sees and her delusions as a mentally ill person. But soon, we uncover the reason behind her fragile mental state. It’s not just her separation from her husband that has affected her; in reality, both he and their young daughter are dead. Those calls we heard in the background and their frequent arguments were all hallucinations. Learning this, it becomes easier to believe (not just for the police but also for us) that Anna has been witnessing things that aren’t real through her neighbor’s window.
But what happened to her family? It was her extramarital affair that led to the breakdown of her marriage to her husband, portrayed by Anthony Mackie. Their arguments escalated to the point where one snowy night, while arguing with her husband, Anna was driving with their daughter in the back seat until they had a tragic accident, veering off the road. Anna was the sole survivor, burdened by guilt to the point of repressing all memories of the event. She convinced herself that her family was still alive because she couldn’t face the reality of what happened. That is, until Detective Norrelli (Jeanine Serralles) confronts her with the truth: “Dr. Fox, your family is dead.”
Unable to forgive herself and overwhelmed with shame for everything involving the Russells, Anna attempts suicide. She even records a video on her phone, explaining her motives and absolving anyone who might be seen as a suspect. But shortly after, she discovers something that turns the situation upside down: a photo she took on the night she spent with Katie, confirming that it was real. It proves that she was there. And someone has murdered Katie. But who?
An Unexpected Killer
The final twist comes from Ethan, the son of the Russell family, who reveals himself as a potential serial killer in the making. He confesses to not only killing his mother, Katie, but also Pamela Nazin, his father’s assistant in Boston. This shocking revelation occurs when he appears at Anna’s house in the middle of the night. Well, to be precise, he has been hiding there for almost a week. As Ethan explains, his parents, possibly aware of his violent tendencies (and perhaps even his crimes, though it’s unclear), wanted to send him to a program in New Hampshire, a sort of prison. However, he never went and has been hiding in the shadows of Anna’s home. It was Ethan who took the photo of Anna while she slept and sent it to her via email.
Once this information comes to light, David becomes the first victim caught in the crossfire. Ethan stabs him on the staircase before he can help Anna. The plan is to make Anna’s death appear as suicide and frame David for it. But Anna is determined to fight back. This sets off a thrilling chase up the stairs and onto the terrace, amidst a torrential downpour. Anna survives the encounter with three wounds on her cheek, ultimately overpowering Ethan and sending him crashing through the skylight.
One might assume that “The Woman in the Window” has a bleak ending, but it surprises us with a relatively happy resolution. The entire story serves as a catalyst for Anna Fox’s personal growth. She learns to forgive herself for what happened to her family and hits rock bottom, making it the only way to go from there: up. No more red wine, no more Hitchcock films, no more spying on neighbors through the window. In the hospital, Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry) informs Anna that Katie’s body has been found, the Russells are under custody, and they are highly likely to be involved in some way. Then comes the symbolic moment: he returns her mobile phone and tells her that if she wishes, she can delete her pre-suicide video before it gets processed at the police station. In essence, he offers her the chance to start fresh.
Nine months later, Anna has recovered, overcome her agoraphobia, and sold her house in Brooklyn. She is ready to embark on a new life elsewhere, with fewer memories and less blood. And of course, she takes Punch the cat with her – no need to worry about that. Thus, “The Woman in the Window” concludes with a satisfying outcome for its protagonist, leaving us with a sense of contentment and a slightly bitter taste due to the excessive reliance on dramatic twists. Oh, what would Alfred Hitchcock say?
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