The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window takes all of its emotional momentum, and nullifies it with an absurd, misguided finale.
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is a new Netflix thriller miniseries directed by Michael Lehmann (known for Heathers and Airheads). Kristen Bell stars as Anna, a woman who lost her young daughter (Appy Pratt) and now suffers from hallucinations and alcohol addiction. Her life seems to pick up when a widowed man named Neil (Tom Riley) moves in across the street and befriends her. That is, until Anna sees – or at least thinks she sees – Neil’s girlfriend Lisa (Shelley Hennig) murdered in his house. She then sets off to investigate, drawing the ire and suspicion of everyone in her life.
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is being billed as a comedy and a parody of thrillers, right down to its long, convoluted title. But while there’s a funny moment once in a while, the tone is mostly serious and the story is played very straight. And as straightforward thrillers go, this one is really solid for the first seven of its eight episodes. At the heart of that is Kristen Bell, whose pained performance carries the emotional weight of the show. Even though her character makes many foolish and self-destructive choices throughout the series, she’s still likeable because you understand the grief, suffering, and growing instability that are driving her to those choices. It’s all communicated very well, making you feel both sorry for her and afraid of her at the same time.
My favorite aspect of The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is how it plays with the audience’s perception of reality. For a long stretch of the series, it’s a completely even toss-up as to whether she actually saw a murder, or if it was entirely in her head. There’s equal reason to believe either, and every time you think the signs are pointing towards one conclusion, a new wrinkle shows up and throws that into question once more. The actions of the characters involved certainly look suspicious, but they all appear to have logical explanations based around common sense and Anna’s mental state. You can’t blame any character for their disbelief in or anger towards Anna, as you probably wouldn’t believe her either in their positions. You have a hard enough time believing her as a viewer, after all!
The side characters, though occasionally a little unnaturally performed, are all interesting. Neil is another character that constantly has you guessing. Is he a purely innocent victim, a manipulative plotter, or something in between? Is Lisa who she appears to be? If not, what does that say about why or if she was killed? Cameron Britton plays Anna’s handyman, who occasionally drops a few lines that make you question what he’s been up to. The show is really adept in denying you any sort of certainty in who to trust. The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window isn’t the most trippy or elaborate mystery story out there, but it’s still quite effective. It’s also very efficient, given its brisk pace and short length for a miniseries. Even the most impatient of viewers will find themselves satisfied with the rate at which the story progresses.
But notice how I said earlier that The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is good for the first seven episodes. Every bit of praise that I’ve given to the miniserieshas been exclusively for that portion, because in the final episode, everything completely falls apart. The big reveal sequence of the finale adds nothing to any character’s emotional journey, undercuts so much of the prior drama, and is perhaps the least intriguing route that could have possibly been taken. Worst of all, it’s just plain ridiculous. The concept and acting are so campy that they would fit right at home in a parody of a show like this. My jaw was dropped in complete disbelief, and I was laughing at the sheer absurdity of what I was seeing and hearing. Even if that’s the intention, it’s still so misguided to have that be the resolution to a much more serious story. Had the entire series showcased the same over-the-top, satirical tone, then this ending would have fit perfectly fine. But that’s not what The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is up until this point.
If anyone were to ask me if they should watch The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, I would tell them to watch the first seven episodes, come up with the best ending they can think of in their head, and pretend that that’s how the final episode plays out. Because they’re almost certain to have thought up a more fitting conclusion than what the actual finale gives us. It’s hard to tell someone to not watch the show at all, as it does almost everything really well up until that last episode. But when judging the show in its entirety, knowing what’s really been going on all along, that good will falls apart. Had The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window been a longer show, I would have been much more annoyed here. But because it is such a small investment of time, I only find myself extremely confused and ultimately very disappointed.
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is now available to watch on Netflix.
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