The Woman in the Window

Review by Charles Bramesco @intothecrevasse

Directed by

Joe Wright


Amy Adams Anthony Mackie Gary Oldman


Nothing quite like a low-rent thriller with high-budget polish and stars to match.


The rent could still be lower on this neutered edit.

In Retrospect.

Release the Wright cut!

Joe Wright serves up a tepid slice of Hitchcockian suspense, with Amy Adams as a paranoid agoraphobe.

When a newly released movie invokes the work of Alfred Hitchcock in its first few minutes, as Joe Wright’s home surveillance thriller The Woman in the Window does with a glimpsed snippet of clear progenitor Rear Window, it makes a pointed announcement. This may all outwardly seem lurid and lowbrow, the script reassures, but we know what we’re doing.

Wright’s latest aspires to the level of refined trash – that craftier breed of potboiler distinguishing its slummy intrigue with tight formal economy, colourful loaded dialogue, and a salacious psychosexual subtext. The pedigree of the talent attached (Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gary Oldman, and those are just the Oscar nominees) helps to sell the line that this will be an expensive take on cheapness, as well as a worthy take on attention-grabbing sensationalism.

And yet the audience is often left feeling like Anna Fox, the pill-happy, increasingly paranoid agoraphobe played by Adams – looking in anticipation over and over again, only to find that there’s nothing there. Predictable where it should be clever, tame where it should be kinky, her voyeuristic peeping exposes the dance with death next door as more of a listless shuffle.

Anna sequesters herself in a cavernous Upper Manhattan brownstone to cope with her “separation” from an unseen but definitely-still-alive husband and daughter, heard chatting with her via phone calls in voiceover. When the Russells move across the street, right into the scope of her telescopic lens, she befriends wife Jane (Moore, the sole cast member taking a real bite out of the big steaming roast she’s been served) and gets bad vibes from husband Alistair (Oldman).

Anna’s deteriorating mental state takes a nosedive once she sees Jane stabbed by an obscured assailant, and then gets worse when she calls the police and an unharmed Jane shows up, now with Leigh’s eerily smiling face. From a lineup of suspects including her ex-con lodger (Wyatt Russell), a sinister therapist (Tracy Letts, who also adapted the source novel from noted liar AJ Finn), and the Russells’ creepy, possibly developmentally stunted kid (Fred Hechinger), get the most prosaic outcome still entailing murder and deception.

As broken cinematic promises go, this one hurts worse than most, in part because we’ve been promised something precious and rare and sorely missed in the current topography of Hollywood. The high-sleaze erotic thriller is ripe for a comeback, but Anna’s cloistered game of hide and seek with her own fear lacks even the faintest trace of sex or comic irony.

There’s no panache to enliven the sordid quality that’s supposed to be the main draw of this genre, the lifelong stylist Wright having evidently set himself to autopilot. A surreal apparition in Anna’s living room cannily symbolises the permeability of memory, and a blood-spatter across the screen gives a halfhearted shrug in the general direction of giallo. In either instance, the artier flourishes do nothing but hint at the riskier iteration of this movie we’ll never see.

Wright’s film has languished in post-production purgatory for upwards of two years, during which time 20th Century Studios, shifting course in the wake of their acquisition by Disney, pawned it off to Netflix. Somewhere down the line, significant rewrites, reshoots, and reedits were implemented to trim the run time and avoid confusion after focus groups bristled in early screenings. In its erratic pacing and bypassed subplots, the cut now streaming teases the viewer with vestiges of the odd ends since pruned.

The sensation that she’s never safe, even in the confines of her own home, pushes Anna to the brink of her sanity. As long as she’s contained in a movie this anodyne, however, she has nothing to worry about.

Published 13 May 2021

Tags: Amy Adams Joe Wright The Woman in the Window


Nothing quite like a low-rent thriller with high-budget polish and stars to match.


The rent could still be lower on this neutered edit.

In Retrospect.

Release the Wright cut!

Suggested For You

Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and the art of the chase

By Adam Scovell

How the director’s mastery of space and location created the famous crop-duster sequence.

The Girl on the Train

By David Jenkins

Emily Blunt stars as a tipsy murder witness in this crushingly perfunctory literary adaptation.


The danger of looking in Brian De Palma’s Sisters

By Tom Williams

The director critiques society’s voyeuristic tendencies in this Hitchcock homage from 1972.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.