“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my time working with children, if I could whittle those years down to a single revelation, it’s this: They are extraordinarily resilient. They can withstand neglect; they can survive abuse; they can endure, even thrive, where adults would collapse like umbrellas.”
Written by A.J. Finn and published in 2018, The Woman In The Window follows Anna Fox who lives alone in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine, watching old movies, recalling happier times, and spying on her neighbours. When the Russells move into the house across the street, Anna thinks they look like the perfect family: a father, a mother, and their teenage son. But when Anna sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? Nothing is what it seems.
Set to be released on 15th May 2020 and directed by Joe Wright, the film adaptation and stars Amy Adams as Anna Fox, Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell, Julianne Moore as Jane Russell, and Anthony Mackie as Ed.
The following post is a review of the book only, looking at how it is going to be adapted. You can read my review of the film in comparison to the book once it has been released.
As a female-led thriller, The Woman In The Window isn’t anything particularly new. The thriller side of the story is fine and I liked the Hitchcock feel to it with the constant references to classic black and white crime thrillers, but there wasn’t anything standout about it aside from that. There’s a lot that you can piece together yourself as there’s so much of the story that you know isn’t right straight away, knowing that it will all be unravelled in some way or other later on.
But whilst the generic thriller elements to the story aren’t what you will remember this book for, what I loved most about it is the way that it tricks you into thinking that everything else is a given. With the use of an unreliable narrator with faulty memories and problems with alcohol, the author plays around with your perception of what is true and what is imagined. In the end, there’s a lot about the story that you don’t question, but it is these things that you have believed to be facts that are, instead, turned on their head.
The big twist for me wasn’t to do with the crime itself, but something else that I wasn’t thinking too much into which took me by complete surprise. This ‘twist’ along with the more powerful themes of depression and grief are what had me gripped throughout the second half of the book. I cried my eyes out for at least three chapters straight.
Anna isn’t very likeable at the beginning of the book as her problems seem to be of her own doing. It’s no wonder that nobody takes her seriously when all she does is drink and double dose on her medication into such a state that she’s just annoying to be around. But as the story progresses and we begin to understand her situation better, Anna becomes very relatable. The qualities that were once unlikeable now force you to sympathise with her in a really emotional way. As you begin to learn about how isolated and lonely she must be feeling, your heart cries out for her.
If you’re new to the genre, this is a great book for you to start with. If you’re already a fan of psychological thrillers, however, you’ll know exactly what to expect with this average thriller, although there are definitely other elements to enjoy about it.
With short chapters and a fast-pace, it feels like this book was written to be made into a film and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true.
Joe Wright is set to direct the adaptation with a screenplay adapted by Tracy Letts. He’s one of my favourite directors so I’m already looking forward to this all the more.
Wright’s most recent film is the critically acclaimed Winston Churchill drama, Darkest Hour, but he is mostly known for his stunning period dramas, Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement, and Anna Karenina.
Thriller-wise, Wright also directed the 2011 Saoirse Ronan-led action Hanna in which he handles the genre brilliantly. It’s tense and well-paced and it keeps you intrigued throughout, which are exactly the characteristics that this adaptation needs to have.
Above all else, his films always look beautifully crafted so there’s certainly a lot that he can add to the somewhat average story, as a highly stylised setting could really vamp the story up. With music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well, this adaptation sounds more and more promising the more that I read about it.
Wright’s films are also always incredibly well cast, and there’s no change with this upcoming one.
Amy Adams is set to lead the film as Anna Fox. She’s an incredibly versatile actor, giving amazing performances in 2016’s Arrival, 2016’s Nocturnal Animals, 2013’s American Hustle, and even as Louis Lane in the DC Extended Universe. She also recently led the TV adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects which she did an amazing job in. Her performances are always impressive and I have no doubt that she’s going to play Anna’s untrustworthy, alcoholic, messed-up but sympathetic character with great depth.
Gary Oldman is set to play Alistair Russell, with Julianne Moore as his wife, Jane Russell, and Fred Hechinger as their son, Ethan. I love Oldman and he has already proven to work well with Wright so this is perfect casting for me. Alistair is quite a brutish character, however, so it will be interesting to see a less charming side to Oldman. Moore is also brilliantly cast as Jane is a difficult character to read, so I think she will create a great sense of mystery around her.
Anthony Mackie is then set to play Anna’s estranged husband, Ed, and Mariah Bozeman as their daughter, Olivia. I think casting Mackie is a great choice for Ed. He isn’t particularly described very well but he comes across as a very understanding character, and after Mackie’s recent performance in the Black Mirror episode, Striking Vipers, I think he will suit the character really well.
Wyatt Russell will play her lodger, David. I haven’t like any of Russell’s characters so far, known for the less mainstream films including Table 19, Ingrid Goes West, and Everybody Wants Some!!, which is usually because he comes across as quite sleazy. However, I think he quite suits the role of David, although I don’t think it will be a role that will make me like him anymore.
As for the rest of the cast, Liza Colón-Zayas is set to play Bina, Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Little, and Jeanine Serralles as Detective Norelli.
Although the film was set to be released in 2019, it’s currently still in post-production as there were some issues with the third act of the film, as the test audience gave negative comments saying that they found the plot confusing. Hopefully, these issues have now been resolved because this could be a really great adaptation if the story and different emotions are handled correctly.
Although there is a great cast involved and one of my favourite directors behind this adaptation, I’ve still been worried about how the story is going to work on-screen and whether I would be bothered to see it at the cinema or not. The new trailer, however, has completely removed all of my doubts.
Whilst I didn’t enjoy the thriller side of the book so much, it is this side of the story that the trailer focuses on and it looks absolutely great. With elements of horror involving the torturous figure that is seemingly stalking Anna, the trailer focuses on the central plot of who’s toying with Anna’s mind and it looks really intense. My main worry was that it would look generic and quickly be thrown into the pile of female-led thrillers/book adaptations that don’t have a lot to be excited by, by there’s a lot about the trailer and adaptation that stands out.
What the trailer doesn’t show is anything to do with Anna’s husband and daughter, which is just important to the story. I suppose they don’t want to give away too much, but I would have liked a glimpse at Anthony Mackie at least. So, I still don’t know how well they will balance the two stories against each other, but I’m very excited by the look of it, nonetheless.
The Woman In The Window is set to be released in cinemas on 15th May 2020, which you can watch the trailer for below: