With obvious nods to Hitchcock, this film creates suspense through a blend of unpredictable characters, plot twists, ominous music (by Danny Elfman), and gloomy settings seen from odd angles.
Like so many psychological thrillers before it, The Woman in the Window wants to make us question who and what is real. The actual violence is less important (or interesting) -- and comes later in the story -- than the palpable sense of menace and the uncertainty of who presents what threat.
The tale turns on Anna, an unreliable witness with psychological problems whose abuse of alcohol and medications fuzzes her perceptions. The always-versatile Adams offers a solid performance that fuels the film and compensates for other, less-developed characters. Her Anna is at once heartbreaking and infuriating, a believable Everywoman who has lost her will to live, but the essential details of what drove her to the life of a recluse are kept from us for more than half the movie.
There are also themes in the film concerning motherhood and a mother's role, adding to the emotion and contributing to our uncertainty about Anna's state of mind. The men are mostly there to menace, except for two (perhaps coincidentally both Black): her apparently-estranged husband, and the kind detective assigned to her case.
The story is structured by days over the course of one autumn week, with Anna repeating rituals (including passing out each night and awaking startled each morning) and only halfheartedly seeking help. There's mention of a previous suicide attempt.
The film's production design is all about the mood: Anna lives in a cavernous, jewel-toned brownstone where she keeps the lights constantly dimmed. She's often glimpsed from peculiar angles and reflected in mirrors as she wanders the dark house in her pink bathrobe.
The structure and setting are effective enough to put you on edge, uncertain how events will unfold but sure something bad will happen. When it does, it feels almost anti-climactic; proof again that the waiting is the hardest, but maybe also the best, part.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.