Spoilers are ahead. Based on the best-selling thriller of the same name by A.J. Finn, The Woman In The Window attempts to answer the question: can a movie have too many twists? (The limit, apparently, does not exist.) However, fans of the novel might not be too surprised, as the Woman In The Window ending stays pretty close to that of the book.
Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is agoraphobic. Her only connection to the outside world are her nightly phone calls with her estranged husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and her daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman), and her brief interactions with David (Wyatt Russell), her tenant who lives in the basement. That is, until the mysterious Russell family moves in across the street. But it’s not until Anna witnesses Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) being stabbed to death, only for another Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to show up, alive and well, that things really take a turn. Is it all in her head? Or is there more to the Russell family than meets the eye?
Meanwhile, Anna takes an interest in the Russell’s teenage son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger). As a child psychologist, she recognises his skittish behaviour as a sign that he might be abused, and her conviction only gets stronger when she sees how afraid he is of his overbearing father Alistair (Gary Oldman). Long story short: once Anna realises that she really did see a woman killed — the woman was not Jane Russell, but Ethan’s estranged birth mother — and that it wasn’t all a hallucination, she convinces herself that Alistair must have killed her. Now, here’s where fans of the book might get a little thrown off.
In Finn’s original thriller, it’s Ethan who confirms that that the woman Anna saw was real, she just wasn’t Jane Russell. He also assures her that he’ll talk to his parents and get them to turn themselves in for her murder. In the film, it’s David who reveals the woman’s true identity. He had a one night stand with the birth mum, but let Anna believe she was hallucinating because he doesn’t want to get involved with the police.
But the main difference between The Woman In The Window the movie and the book isn’t so much David’s involvement as it is the unravelling of Ethan and Anna’s relationship. In the book, when Ethan tells Anna about his birth mother, she is hopeful that he’ll be able to be free from his parents, that she’s helped him escape an abusive home. It’s not until later that Anna realises something is off with Ethan, and he attacks her. It turns out, Ethan killed his birth mother, and his parents have been covering it up. In the movie, the timeline is accelerated, with Ethan attacking right after David reveals the truth.
After that, the movie follows the Woman in the Window‘s original ending pretty closely: Ethan tries to kill Anna, which forces her to run away to the rooftop, but she ends up besting him, pushing him off the roof to his death.
As for how we’re supposed to feel about the Woman in the Window ending, director Joe Wright is hoping that it might inspire a liberation from fear. “I hope the audience have a sense of having had this nail-biting experience but feel a sense of release and relief at the end from fear,” he told Entertainment Weekly prior to the film’s release. Just as Anna is liberated from her fear of the outdoors (and of being murdered by a baby serial killer), we too are liberated from the fear that we might have to watch Amy Adams die on screen.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?