In the new Netflix thriller The Woman in the Window, Amy Adams plays an agoraphobic New Yorker called Anna Fox, who witnesses a murder through the windows of her neighbor’s house across the street. But after she calls the police it’s revealed that the victim – Jane Russell – is not only fine, but a completely different woman from the Jane Russell that Anna met earlier that week.
Directed by Joe Wright and based on the novel of the same name by A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window presents several different possibilities for what could be happening. Is the second Jane Russell some kind of imposter, and part of a conspiracy to cover up the real Jane’s murder? Is Anna’s downstairs tenant, David, somehow connected to the murder? Or was there actually no murder at all, just a hallucination brought on by Anna’s daily cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs?
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That last theory is bolstered by The Woman in the Window‘s second act reveal that Anna’s husband and daughter – with whom she thinks she’s been having phone conversations – actually died in a car accident that Anna had blocked from her memory. Doubting her sanity and freshly grieving for her family, Anna makes the decision to kill herself by overdosing on her medication. But in the end, a cute cat photo ends up unravelling the whole mystery.
The Murdered Woman Wasn’t Jane Russell – But She Was Ethan’s Mother
Anna puts her suicide plans on pause when she realizes that a photo of her cat, Punch, also has a reflection of “Jane” in the wine glass, confirming that the woman was real and she did actually spend the evening at Anna’s house. When Anna, still doubting her own sanity, asks David to confirm that he can see the face in the glass, he reveals the truth about the first Jane Russell. Her name is actually Katie, and she’s Ethan Russell’s birth mother. She lost custody of Ethan when he was a baby, after Alistair Russell found the two of them living in a meth commune and took his son into his own care. Katie kept a photo of Ethan in a locket around her neck, and although Alistair tried paying her to stay away from his family, she tracked them down in Boston and continued to pursue them when they moved to New York.
Though Anna remembered Katie identifying herself as Jane Russell, it was actually Anna herself who first assumed that the stranger must be her new neighbor and called her Jane Russell. Katie simply went along with this misunderstanding after learning that Anna had met her son, and wanting to get closer to her. The deception was reinforced by Katie going into the Russells’ building after leaving Anna’s house. Later, what Anna interpreted as a domestic altercation between Alistair and Jane Russell that resulted in Jane storming out was actually Alistair forcing Katie to leave his home after her latest attempt to get Ethan back. Sadly, Katie’s love for her son is ultimately what doomed her.
Ethan Is The Killer, And The Russells Were Covering For Him
Anna witnesses Katie’s murder through the windows of the Russell house, which proves crucial to her interpretation of events since the actual stabbing (and the person who did the stabbing) is hidden from her view. When Anna observes the attack she can only see Anna, pacing backwards and forwards between two windows that are separated by a section of wall. The killer is never actually shown, but Anna assumes – based on her experiences with both Ethan and Alistair Russell – that Alistair must be the killer. After all, Ethan seems like a sweet, vulnerable boy, while Alistair Russell has been standoffish and had interacted aggressively with “Jane” the last time Anna saw them.
The truth is that Ethan is a budding serial killer who had already murdered at least one other woman before Katie: Alistair Russell’s assistant, Pamela Nazin. Alistair and Jane Russell knew that Ethan was Pamela’s killer, and moved to New York from Boston for a fresh start. They had been there only a few days before Ethan killed Katie, and once again they were forced to cover up the murder to protect Ethan. But while Alistair would do anything to protect his son, Jane Russell was less enthusiastic about having a murderer for a stepson, resulting in the heated argument over dinner that Anna witnessed. At the end of The Woman in the Window, after Ethan kills David and tries to murder Anna as well, it’s Jane Russell who eagerly tells the police everything.
Having acquired a lust for murder, Ethan made Anna his next target due to her vulnerability and isolation. Both Katie and Alistair express confusion when Anna tries to thank Jane Russell for the scented candle she supposedly sent over, because Ethan made up the story about his mother sending him over with a gift for their new neighbor. It was actually Ethan who bought the candle, as a way to get into Anna’s house and acquire a set of her keys so that he could let himself in whenever he liked. Because Anna never actually leaves the house, she didn’t notice the keys were missing.
How David Knew Katie (& Why He Lied About It)
After being kicked out of the Russell house, a distraught Katie ended up spending a night at David’s basement apartment. David indicates that they did not know one another beforehand. Qhile it’s notable that both he and the Russells used to live in Boston, this appears to simply be a red herring in the form of a coincidence. Rather than being heavily involved with the Russells, David met Katie while she was hanging around their house, in the same way that Katie and Anna met. When Anna goes downstairs on Wednesday night to ask David if he heard a scream from across the street, Katie is in his apartment and can be heard sobbing after David denies hearing anything.
Later, when Anna is confronted by the police about her claims, David says nothing about having met Katie. The reason for this lie is that, as Anna learns after snooping on his mail, David used to be in prison and is currently violating his parole by living in New York. Admitting that he knew anything related to a possible murder investigation would have resulted in David’s own background being scrutinized by the police. They would have quickly learned about his parole violation, and he could have ended up going back to jail.
Why Anna’s Agoraphobia Is Cured At The End
At the end of The Woman in the Window, after Ethan is killed and Anna is completely vindicated by Jane Russell’s confession, there’s a time jump to nine months later. Not only have Anna’s physical injuries healed, she has also been cured of her agoraphobia. This change may have happened suddenly, when she was forced to go outside in order to save her own life in the fight against Ethan. However, it’s more likely that the rooftop fight was the first step in Anna’s recovery, and she spent the interim nine months in dedicated therapy to cure her agoraphobia. Whereas before she was held back by her denial about the real reason for her condition – the death of her family – acknowledging the origin of her trauma made it possible for her to start healing.
The final scene in The Woman in the Window, in which Anna says goodbye to her home, suggests that her agoraphobia was driven less by a fear of the outside and more by a fear of losing the connection to her late husband and daughter. Her house was like a pocket of denial where she could pretend that she was simply separated, and her family was only a phone call away. Outside of that bubble, though, the horrible truth would threaten to return. Once she accepts the fact that they’re gone and manages to forgive herself, Anna is finally set free.
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