Warning! Major spoilers for The Woman in the Window below.
After a rocky road from page to screen, the movie adaptation of A.J. Finn’s hit novel The Woman in the Window has finally hit Netflix — but with a few changes, of course. For the most part, the film followed the original story very closely. But as with any movie adaptation, a few details from the book had to be sacrificed or changed.
The Woman in the Window follows the agoraphobic Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) as she spends her days spying on her neighbors. As she begins to keep tabs on her new neighbors the Russells, she sees something that she was never supposed to witness. But as the cocktail of medications and heavy drinking she prescribes herself tends to lead to hallucinations, she begins to question her reality. Anna has to prove that what she saw was real and right the injustice that happened.
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The changes made to the film adaptation of The Woman in the Window didn’t impact the overall story very much. Instead, they were implemented to play to the star power of The Woman in the Window‘s cast. Let’s take a look at every major change from the book to the movie.
David’s Expanded Role
In The Woman in the Window, David (Wyatt Russell) is Anna’s tenant. As she is severely agoraphobic and separated from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and daughter Olivia, David lives in her basement and helps out around her home. In the novel, David is a minor character in the overall story. But his role is significantly beefed up for the film. After Anna believes she has witnessed the murder of her neighbor Jane Russell (Julianne Moore), she becomes convinced David is involved. The film proceeds to bolster suspicion around David. The Woman in the Window‘s final exposition dump explaining that Jane is actually a woman named Katherine, a.k.a. Katie, also comes through David, instead of the character who initially delivered the news in the novel.
These changes were likely made in order to play off of Russell’s rising star power. The Woman in the Window movie adaptation was released less than a month after Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier released its season 1 finale. Russell made his MCU debut in the show as the new Captain America, John Walker. The show was a massive success, which expanded Russell’s name recognition. That pull was likely enough to draw in viewers that wouldn’t have initially chosen to watch before.
Ed and Olivia’s Death (and How They Affected Anna)
The first twist in The Woman in the Window is the reveal of Ed (Anthony Mackie) and Olivia’s deaths. Throughout the story, Anna is seen talking on the phone to Ed and Olivia. But at the film’s climax, it’s revealed that her husband and daughter had previously died. After the revelation, the film flashes back to their moment of death. While the family was on a vacation, Ed confronted Anna about sleeping with her business partner. They fought, and Olivia got upset. So she insisted they drive home. During the snowstorm on the way back, Anna crashed the car and killed both of them. The tragedy went down a little differently in the movie. Ed, Anna, and Olivia were on their way to a winter getaway, seemingly to try and save their family after Anna’s affair. They begin fighting on the drive up. Anna gets distracted and sends the car over a cliff, killing Ed and Olivia.
The book eventually reveals that the subsequent circumstances of their deaths are what triggered Anna’s agoraphobia. After their crash, they were stranded in the snow for two days until someone found Anna, the lone survivor. Following this experience, she couldn’t bear to go outside again. The Woman in the Window movie never makes any such revelation. It’s implied that the trauma of their deaths drove Anna to remain indoors, but the film omitted the fact that Anna was stranded after the crash. This change didn’t benefit the film in any way, so it’s unclear why this decision was made.
The Ethan Twist
The final twist in The Woman in the Window is that Ethan killed Katie. However, Ethan’s motivations change from the book to the movie. In the final act of the novel, Ethan reveals that Katie is his birth mother and he was adopted by his parents. She tracked his family down in an attempt to reconnect. But after a childhood of abuse and frequent unwanted visits, Ethan snapped and killed her. But in the movie, David reveals Ethan’s relation to Katie. The movie changes it slightly, keeping Katie as his birth mother and changing his dad Alistair (Gary Oldman) to his biological father. Ethan killed Katie in the movie because he resented her for leaving.
The Ethan twist is well-earned in The Woman in the Window novel, as Finn peppers Ethan’s story with clues and red herrings. He and Anna become close, which makes his betrayal all the more shocking. Ethan’s reveal as the killer comes out of nowhere in the movie, making it seem as if the plot point was simply implemented for shock value. The movie spent more time building out David and Anna’s story than it did Anna’s and Ethan’s. That’s likely because the film wanted to ensure stars Russell and Adams got adequate screen time and the juiciest scenes in the movie. Because of that, the movie adaptation gave up the opportunity to flesh out its antagonist as a character. This made The Woman in the Window‘s ending a letdown.
The Woman in the Window Ending
The Netflix movie slightly changes The Woman in the Window‘s ending. In the book, Ethan breaks into Anna’s home and reveals his plan to kill her and make it look like suicide. Anna districts him and kills him before he gets the chance to kill her. Weeks after the book, a friend helps Anna take her first steps outside and she eventually moves out of the home she once shared with her family. In the movie’s ending, Anna was already planning to die by suicide. Ethan happened to break in and walk in on her. He still announces his plans to kill her and the two engage in a physical altercation, which still leads to Anna killing Ethan in self defense. The Woman in the Window‘s final moments sees Anna leaving her home on her own. This final change is perhaps the most beneficial to the overall story. The Woman in the Window sees Anna at rock bottom. Seeing her go from a near-suicide attempt to overcoming her agoraphobia is massive character development. The Woman in the Window is a flawed movie, but this final change ensures it ends on a high note.
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