Netflix Review: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

Going OTT with binges


Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 12:04 PM

There was a film called The Woman in the Window — which I reviewed last year — based on a novel of the same name by A.J. Finn: it’s about an agoraphobic, delusional woman (Amy Adams) who begins to spy on her new neighbours and then, in (Hitchcock’s) Rear Window-style, witnesses a murder across the road from the vantage point of her window. But because she is delusional, labouring under the weight of an unwieldy past, she doesn’t know whether what she has seen is actually for real — or imagined.

The new Netflix series with the super-long title, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (TWITHATSFTGITW — let’s just call it that in order to save space) — appears to be a doppelganger of the film (and not just name-wise). Initially, at least. The protagonist Anna (played superbly by Kristen Bell), is similarly agoraphobic, drinks too much — because she’s been emotionally felled by a double whammy: the death of her eight-year-old daughter, and the (subsequent) breakup of her marriage with Douglas (Michael Ealy) — and spends most of her waking time stalking her ex’s social media feed and checking out the neighbourhood from an armchair at the window. She has a fertile imagination, cooks chicken casseroles and reads books like The Woman Across the Lake, and concocts stories and characters in her mind, as she tries to get by being alive.

Things perk up for her when a new family of ‘single’ father and young daughter — Neil (Tom Riley) and Emma (Samsara Yett) — moves in across the street. But that’s where the similarities with shorter-titled The Woman in the Window sort of end.

Neil is recently widowed, and Emma is the same age as her late daughter. Anna begins to believe this may be the family she can make her own, immediately begins to fantasise while checking them out from the window, and then takes tentative steps to form a real bond by befriending them.

She’s soon given a reality check when Neil’s flight attendant, snarky girlfriend Lisa (Shelley Hennig) waltzes into the frame, sending Anna back into a rabbit hole of excesses. It’s at this point — when she’s at her lowest — that she witnesses a murder in their house across the street. She doesn’t see the murderer, only the victim, puts in a call to the police; when the cops arrive on the ‘crime scene’, there’s no body or evidence to suggest any murder.

Anna, however, is almost sure she’s seen something, despite a little voice telling her she may have well imagined the scenario, so she embarks on her own investigation.

What works with TWITHATSFTGITW is that this is a fine crime story in the first place, and eminently binge-able (aided by the fact that each of the eight episodes are short and snappy). But more tellingly, TWITHATSFTGITW is also a parody of the genre, almost like a black comedy factoring in tragic undertones, that employs humour and disguised exaggerations to great effect. The suburban setting. The ‘typical’ neighbours. The ham-handedness of police ‘procedures’. The absurdities of logistics, settings and aesthetics. And the seeming inanity of human psychology.

Finally, do keep an eye for the brilliant cameo by Glenn Close (yep, that’s her) that sets the agenda for TWITHATSFTGITW’s Season 2. Coming soon. This time from the window seat of an aircraft.

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