The opening scenes promise a moving and intriguing drama as we are introduced to the confused and dysfunctional world of Tom, an American lecturer and writer, estranged from his French wife and barred from seeing his small daughter. He gradually falls under the spell of Margit, a mysterious older woman, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, "the woman in the fifth" by virtue of her address, and possibly something else as well. In the background we see the initially plain, childlike Polish waitress who who may bring Tom a truer peace than Margit,
Proceeding at a slow pace, with lingering shots of distinctive faces, a balcony with a blurred suggestion of the Eiffel Tower in the background, red insects on dark tree bark, threadlike spiders spinning webs in a police cell, this film weaves a sense of tension, even menace, and begins to insert surreal moments between scenes of clear rationality.
When it ended quite abruptly after little over 80 minutes, I was left feeling cheated, trying to work out exactly what had happened, wondering what clues I had missed, but not doing so too hard since it seemed that the director had resorted to the realms of the supernatural, or madness, to provide a denouement. This reminded me afterwards of Hitchcock's "Vertigo", recrafted for the present day.
The film is based loosely on a novel which seems to have prompted mixed reviews and perplexed readers in a similar fashion.