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An off-beat thriller delving into the crime world of reality and fantasy almost impossible to understand
"The Woman in the Fifth" throws us into the middle of the story. Seemingly a perfect way to start, a back-story is implied begging to be told, and future events destined to unfold to eventually come together in an interesting climax and dénouement. But the back-story never was revealed and the plot elements are indiscernible to the average eye.
Tom (Ethan Hawke) is an American writer moving to Paris. His first novel was a moderate success and he is most likely suffering from various creative blocks, probably not helped by the fact that his ex-wife has a restraining order against him, prohibiting him from seeing his daughter.
At this point, we are driven into a world of crime not surprising for a thriller, but we don't know what crimes yet. Broke and alone, Tom makes a deal with a shady "businessman", develops an affair with a mysterious worldly woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and then develops an affair with a sweetly mysterious waitress (Joanna Kulig).
For the few crimes that we do know were committed, it's awfully hard to understand why or by whom. The reality of the film and the imagination (or fantasy) element of the film are most likely impossible to separate. Almost all viewers have come up with different explanations, if they came up with any.
It can be interesting watching a jarring film and deduce whatever explanation you like. It can also be disappointing if you don't come up with any explanation that you like. I'm afraid I fall into the latter group.
That being said, it's nice seeing Ethan Hawke in a lead role in an indie. And speaking French no less (not perfectly, but it fits the role)! The imagery and cinematography chosen for this film were interesting and walked the thin line between thriller and horror, helped along with a slightly off-beat score. "The Woman in the Fifth" is off- beat, if it's anything at all.
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