Thursday, 1 March 2012

Film review - The Woman in the Fifth

I'll have to admit, I'm a sucker for a French psycho drama so I was rather looking forward to seeing 'The Woman in the Fifth'.

Sadly it fell far, far short of my expectations.

In brief, an American writer, Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) arrives in Paris to 're-connect' with his estranged ex-wife and young daughter.  He turns up at their apartment and it becomes apparent that his ex-wife has a restraining order against him for reasons that are never properly explained.  He flees when she calls the police, jumps on a bus, falls asleep and wakes up in one of the roughest parts of Paris to find that all his belongings except his passport have been stolen.

Now at this point, you & I would have gone to the embassy or the police to report the theft but no, he wanders into a nearby cafe and orders a coffee with the handful of change he has in his pocket, gets chatting to the Polish waitress Ania and asks her if she knows of any rooms he could rent.  She introduces him to the Arab cafe owner Samir. Personally I'd have taken one look at Samir's rather sinister bulging eyes and ran for the hills but our erstwhile hero tells him that although he'd like to rent a room, he has no money to actually pay the rent and just like that, Samir lets him have a room for free, so as long as Tom hands over his passport.  There's no explanation as to why a seemingly intelligent person, with all the options and freedoms that an American abroad possesses, would do such a thing and thereby commit himself to a life of exploitation and abuse but he does.

This is cue for a number of rather irritating dead end story lines;
Tom goes to a lawyer and starts a custody battle for his daughter that will cost him €10,000 that he doesn't have.  There is a single scene in the lawyers office then nothing more.

He takes on a job as a security guard for Samir.  Every time he lets people into the building, (who, incidentally, can only enter if they say the correct code), there's a lot of screaming & banging and the light in his office dims.  One night he ventures out of his office, sees a lot of blood in the corridor and runs away.  And that's it.  No explanation, no follow up.

He also starts stalking his daughter, lying on his grotty bed watching the trains pass by his window, fighting with his neighbour about flushing the toilet and begins a love affair with a mysterious wealthy woman, Margit, (Kristen Scott Thomas).  She's the woman in the fifth arrondissment of the title, (even though her address is actually in the second).  It's a long time since I've seen such a badly written character.  She's all cliche and no substance.  It's a mystery why the extremely talented Kristen Scott Thomas took on such an awful part.  I can only assume she had an enormous tax bill to pay or something.

Image via

I'm not going say anything more just in case you do want to see the film.  It's not all bad by any means - I did like the fact that it portrayed a side of Paris that's a million miles away from the picture postcard tourist version.

I can see what the film was trying to do - explore mental illness and delusions but personally I think it was done far better in Black Swan and even Midnight in Paris.

*Amended 2/3/12*   


Anonymous said...

Two thinking persons just finished watching this abomination. We want the time back. There were no answers, yet many questions posed. No resolutions. This movie sucked.

Anonymous said...

have to support the last comment. We're usually both looking for creative movies but couldn't grasp the core story.


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