Movie Review: “The Woman in the Fifth”- An Elusive Dame

Written by Spencer Sterritt July 31, 2012

A moment came to me as I was nearing the end of “The Woman in the Fifth,” the new French/Polish thriller currently playing at the Hyland Cinema, where I knew that the ending would baffle and infuriate me.The movie was only 85 minutes long, and my internal clock told me that the film was running out of time to make any meaningful conclusion or ornate twist. I could feel the sensation of disappointment in the back of my head, like a train station before the morning rush. As the minutes dragged on the feeling amped up until I was putting all of the pieces together in my head…and came to nothing.

To Paris With Some Sort of Love

Originally I had been excited for “The Woman in the Fifth,” about an American father named Tom (Ethan Hawke), who comes to Paris to be with his daughter. While he is there he falls for an austere, elegant woman named Margit (Kristen Scott Thomas), the titular ‘Woman in the Fifth’ (due to where she lives). The circumstances around Tom’s life are vague and haunting, and there is clearly something wrong with him. His already precarious life gets dangerously topsy-turvy once he is robbed, and force to bunk with some less-than-stellar thugs in a poor district of Paris.

The film takes no time in pitting the viewer against Tom, always framing him in an imposing light and taking every chance to make him a stranger to both the characters and the audience. He says he was in the hospital, but his daughter believes he was in prison, and these details are never added upon, leaving a hollow protagonist that unfortunately can’t let the audience in. There’s never enough to know about Tom, or to know about who he’d been, for the viewer to sympathize.

Even a haughty Kristen Scott Thomas can’t save this film

The film itself is well shot, and at only 85 minutes it certainly does not overstay its welcome. The film definitely comments on control, and surveillance, and how much one can trust another, with certain shots reminiscent of 1970’s paranoid thrillers and documentaries, and prominent scenes of Tom spying on his daughter. He submits easily to everyone around him, even those who wish him nothing but good will, and everyone has turned into the enemy by the film’s end.

Headlong into the Most Shallow Abyss

What strikes me most about this film, however, is how terrible the ending is. Nothing is resolved, and I felt like I had wasted my time. All of the nice camera work and acting means nothing in the end, and I felt incredibly hollow. What’s worse is that I had expected such a feeling, even from seeing the trailer. I can’t help but wonder how a film with such an ending could be made. And this applies to all of the terrible thriller/horror movies that go off the rails in the last act. Does no one stop the writer and director and tell them that their ending does not make sense? Is everyone involved in the production deluded by the conclusion? Or do they not care, as they are too invested in the complexities of the second act to care about any dramatic payoff? There must be some reason since it seems every other week or so an unfullfilling thriller is released with a hokum ending that leaves far too many questions and a deep feeling of regret in the viewer’s stomach.

By the last annoyingly vague shot of “The Woman in the Fifth,” you will find yourself frustrated at the wasted talent and potential of Ethan Hawke and Kristen Scott Thomas. Any prestige of being a foreign film ahs washed away by the thirty mintue mark. It’s best to save yourself the trouble and see “The Dark Knight Rises” again.

My Rating: 4/10

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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