The Woman in the Window is based on the novel of the same name, but is it based on a true story? Here are the inspirations behind the novel.
After many delays, the movie adaptation of The Woman in the Window will finally see the light thanks to Netflix, but a question arises: are the movie and book based on a true story? The coronavirus pandemic had an impact on the entertainment industry as well, putting many projects on hold and delaying many releases. Some of those movies that couldn’t get a theatrical release were delayed many, many times as studios waited for cinemas to reopen, while others found a home in different streaming platforms.
Such is the case of The Woman in the Window, a psychological thriller directed by Joe Wright and based on the novel of the same name by A.J. Finn. The story centers on Anna Fox (Amy Adams), an agoraphobic psychologist who befriends a neighbor across the street, only to see her own life turned upside down when the woman disappears and she starts to suspect foul play. Also starring are Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore. The Woman in the Window was originally scheduled for an October 2019 release but was delayed after test screenings pushed the studio to make some changes to the movie, and then it was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. In August 2020, Netflix acquired the distribution rights to the movie, and so it’s now ready to stream on that platform.
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As it happens with every story about crime, the question about the inspiration behind The Woman in the Window quickly arose, more so as the movie is based on a book. However, The Woman in the Window is not based on a true story, even if some parts of the story might seem like something you could have easily read on the news – but it was involved in controversy due to its similarities to other works. The novel has been compared to Gillian Flynn’s acclaimed 2012 novel Gone Girl, but it’s mostly similar to the 1995 movie Copycat and Sarah A. Denzil’s 2016 novel Saving April. Copycat is a psychological thriller directed by Jon Amiel and starring Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, and Dermot Mulroney. It follows a field expert on serial killers who becomes severely agoraphobic after one of her subjects attacks her and later helps the police catch a killer who is taking inspiration from some of the most notorious murderers in history.
Although Copycat and The Woman in the Window share the basic concept of an agoraphobic woman and could be interpreted as Finn taking inspiration from the movie, the similarities with Saving April make everything more complicated. Denzil’s novel follows Hannah Abbott, a woman plagued by anxiety who isolates herself in suburban Yorkshire. Her only friend is her elderly neighbor Edith, but the arrival of the Mason family across the street complicates everything. Readers have pointed out that The Woman in the Window is “the exact same plot like down to the main character’s backstory”, but Finn’s publisher defended his work by noting that the outline of his novel, its characters, and main plot points were fully formed before Saving April was published. Still, this has raised questions about how far literary influence and inspiration can go, and Finn’s case was made worse by an exposé in The New Yorker that revealed he has lied about many aspects of his life and career.
Controversies and inspirations or plagiarisms aside, The Woman in the Window has clear influences from Alfred Hitchcock, specifically the movie Rear Window, where a photographer confined to a wheelchair believes he witnessed a murder after spending his time watching his neighbors through a telephoto lens and binoculars; Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, in which a young woman witnesses some strange events on her daily train ride; and the above-mentioned novel Gone Girl, where the wife of a writer goes missing and he becomes the prime suspect. The Woman in the Window, then, was influenced by different movies and novels, and whether it shamelessly copied some of them or not will be something the audience will decide.
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