Greetings again from the darkness. Agoraphobia (the fear of leaving one’s home) has been the topic of a few films over the years, but for whatever reason, none of them have really clicked. Of course, director Alfred Hitchcock brilliantly used a wheelchair-bound James Stewart to create his tension-packed classic REAR WINDOW (1954); however, there’s a psychological difference in being stuck at home due to injury, and being mentally and emotionally unable to bring yourself to walk out the front door due to anxiety and fear. Controversial author/editor AJ Finn (pseudonym of Dan Mallory) wrote a 2018 best-selling debut novel around this affliction, and now Tracy Letts has adapted the novel for the screen and director Joe Wright (DARKEST HOUR 2017, ATONEMENT 2007).
Amy Adams stars as Anna Fox, a child psychologist suffering from agoraphobia after a horrible car accident. She never leaves her Brownstone. She has groceries and prescription drugs delivered to her door, and conducts business over the phone. She has also mastered the internet and memorized dialogue from numerous classic films. Anna also spends an inordinate amount of time spying … um, observing … her neighbors through the window. Anna has a pet cat, and also a tenant living in her basement. We don’t learn much about David (Wyatt Russell) until later in the film.
The story is broken down by the days of the week, and begins with Monday when Anna meets Ethan (Fred Hechinger), the son of the Russells who just moved in across the street. On Tuesday, Anna meets the character played by Julianne Moore, and the two have a chat about her son Ethan, in addition to bonding over wine … a beverage of frequent choice for Anna. On Wednesday and Thursday, all heck breaks loose as Anna hears a scream and witnesses a stabbing in the home of her new neighbors. The cops don’t believe her and Ethan’s dad, Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), shows up accusing her of lying, boozing, and hallucinating on prescription drugs. It’s not a pretty sight for Anna.
The first hour does a nice job of setting the scene for Anna and her struggles, plus creating confusion and misdirection on what she’s experiencing and “seeing” in regards to the situation in the Russell home across the street. We get a feel for the strange dynamic with David, the phone calls with her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie), and her therapy sessions with Dr. Landy (screenwriter Tracy Letts). It’s really Act 3 where things went off the rails for me. It seemed there was an attempt to cram too much into too short of time. The ending is clear and helps us make sense of everything that has come before; however, it just came across as forced, and out of step with what we had watched in the first hour.
Other supporting roles include Brian Tyree Henry as a Detective, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. In fact, the stellar cast includes two Oscar winners in Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman, a previous Oscar nominee in Jennifer Jason Leigh, and of course, Amy Adams, who has six Oscar nominations. Ms. Adams carries most of the movie with yet another terrific performance, while the others really aren’t given much to do. It’s rare for me to say this, but I believe the material would have been better served as a two- or three-parter, rather than a relatively short movie. It was initially delayed in 2019 for re-shoots and a re-edit, and then again in 2020 due to COVID. I might have been somewhat disappointed in the final project, but I suspect this will be hugely popular on Netflix.
Premieres on Netflix on May 13, 2021