The Woman In The Fifth

The Woman In The Fifth


Reviewed by: James Benefield

A rumpled, raspy Ethan Hawke plays a literature professor, and sometime writer, who is in central Paris for a reconciliation with his wife and daughter. His wife (Delphine Chuillot) is not so pleased to see him, citing a restraining order as the reason she calls in the police. Escaping on a bus, he soon falls asleep and wakes up in a dodgy-looking suburb with his luggage stolen. Finally finding some income and a place to stay, he continues to attempt to re-establish contact with his family until the mysterious Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) enters his life.

Although Hawke is a perfectly affable presence, there's always something a little earnest and insubstantial about him. But director Pawel Pawlikowski uses the actor well here, as his character gives little away throughout and, while the screenplay is positively drenched in ambiguity, Hawke is a blank canvas that will not be easily defined.

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Does he really have the violent past that his wife hints at in the film's opening sequences? Has he just been released from prison or not? Why exactly does he get involved with Margit? And that's just the beginning of the questions for a film that takes at least one abrupt turn later on.

It's this dance along the thin line between the enigmatic and the malevolently reticent that occupies the rest of the movie and it's for the viewer to decide when it turns from intriguing to simply frustrating. There were two points for me; the first is the miscasting of Kristin Scott Thomas. Her role in the movie is signposted in an increasingly vague and confused way, never allowing her room to do very much. The second point of frustration is during the melodramatic final 20 minutes which undoes much of the good work of the film's set up as it enters another type of film entirely.

There's half of a good film here, but Pawlikowski approaches his material in a way that undermines the rationale and our perception of the film's third act. Perhaps with a bit more grime and darkness in the movie's first half he could have got away with it, but he doesn't and for all the moodiness and intrigue, the film simply doesn't work.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2012
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While in Paris an academic meets a woman who may be involved in a series of mysterious murders.
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Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Writer: Douglas Kennedy, Pawel Pawlikowski

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Delphine Chuillot

Year: 2011

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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