Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Sinister, sensual and intelligent thriller
on 1 April 2013
There are some films where it's almost impossible to go into detail without spoiling your enjoyment of the movie. 'Woman in the Fifth' is one of those. It's an intricate, intelligent, fragmented thriller which plays with notions of reality and the boundary between imagination and actuality. Normally I'd try to tell you more about it... but I'm on thin ice here!
The film-making is exquisite. This is a modern day tale but it feels like (and references) Orwell's Paris of the 1930s, and the erratic protagonist is most definitely down and out. A troubled American writer who initially appears to be a on quest to reunite with his estranged French family, he stumbles chaotically through a washed-out, sparsely uninhabited urban landscape and seeks solace in the fictional forest he created for his first (and only) published novel.
Ethan Hawke establishes an entirely convincing character who seems caught in the roiling currents of circumstance. Rebuffed and bewildered, he drifts into territory which is both threatening and seductive. Desperate for a reunion with his beloved young daughter, he ends up in sordid situations which take a surreal turn into murder and mayhem. Finally his daughter's life is threatened and he must face up to the malign influence which has almost unravelled his existence. The ending is... ambiguous, but earlier scenes provide some important cues about what might be happening.
The supporting cast is wonderful; not just Kristen Scott-Thomas as the woman herself, but also the Polish waitress who befriends him, and the charmingly sinister Sezer who provides the writer with accommodation and employment - but at what cost? The bilingual script, swapping fluidly back and forth between French and English is entertaining, too (especially as many of the subtitles don't quite convey the same meaning as the speech...)
The overall result is a taut thriller - not an action-based adventure in the slightest, but one where all the important stuff is going on internally. We were gripped by its pace and characters, delighted by the visuals, and kept intellectually engaged by the undercurrents of the plot. We'll be watching it again to soak up more of the atmosphere, and to see if our suspicions about some of the themes are correct.
One item to note: the blurb seems to suggest that this is strongly sexual or erotic. Apart from one memorable scene (where the camera shows only faces), it's all pretty mild.