The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window review: Few funny moments and the scarcity of mystery make this series easily skippable

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window review: Few funny moments and the scarcity of mystery make this series easily skippable

The material could probably work in a shorter 90-minute format but stretched across eight episodes of 25-30 minutes each, it ends up being only mildly engaging and intermittently funny

Shantanu Ray ChaudhuriUpdated: Sunday, January 30, 2022, 05:44 AM IST
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If the title The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window isn’t an omnibus mouthful – even its acronym TWITHATSFTGITW stretches on indefinitely and is well-nigh impossible to articulate. Much like ‘autoerotic asphyxiation’ which a character in the series categorises as hard to pronounce — here’s what the protagonist Anna (Kristen Bell) has as a voiceover moment of self-realisation: ‘To get to the bottom of something, sometimes you have to remind yourself that if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything. And the biggest risk you can take is to risk nothing. And if you risk nothing, what you’re really doing is risking not getting to the bottom of something. And if you don’t get to the bottom of something, you risk everything.’

If you are in the mood for it, it’s rather droll after a fashion — and much of how you take to the series will depend on your tolerance for the silly. The Woman… is a mystery wrapped in a parody/spoof where neither the mystery has you sweating enough, nor the comic take has you laughing out loud.

We first see Anna making a casserole, pounding out the chicken and other condiments, reaching in to the oven and grabbing at the dish only to drop it as a memory flashes in her head (or is it because she is not wearing gloves?). She murmurs something to the effect of: ‘How can I keep forgetting?’ Which is not the only thing she forgets. In one of her hallucinatory sequences, her dead daughter has to actually remind her that, well, she is dead.

Anna is an artist whose life has ground to a halt after her daughter’s macabre death three years ago. That also led to the end of her marriage to Douglas (Michael Ealy), a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI specialising in serial killers. Now she spends all her time padding across her house, downing pills, gulping copious amounts of wine, and staring out of the window onto the street and the house across.

Handsome Neil (Tom Riley), coping with his wife’s ‘accidental death’, moves in across the street with his cute nine-year-old daughter Emma (Samsara Yett). Anna starts fixating on the possibility of a family all over again. Things, however, go careening out of control when Neil’s girlfriend Lisa (Shelley Hennig) arrives and just as quickly, Anna — staring at Neil’s window as she has been wont to do of late — witnesses a murder. Or does she? Given her overactive imagination (she hears noises in her attic, she reads paperbacks with titles like The Woman at the Lake, The Woman at the Cruise), her propensity to drink, she also has ombrophobia (fear of rain), even Anna, let alone the police, cannot really convince herself if it was just another drug-and-alcohol-induced hallucination, as the needle of suspicion starts pointing at her.

The material could probably work in a shorter 90-minute format but stretched across eight episodes of 25-30 minutes each, it ends up being only mildly engaging and intermittently funny. There are little moments that work, like Anna commenting on a neighbour, ‘What does that woman do? Stare out of her window all day?’ Or the changing epitaphs on her daughter’s tombstone. Or the handyman Buell (Cameron Britton), who seems to be fixated on repairing one mailbox over eight episodes.

But for the most part, neither the mystery/slasher (a la Rear Window or Scream) or the send-up of psychological thrillers involving lonely women in danger who think they have witnessed a murder (a la The Woman in the Window, The Girl on the Train) really hits home, with the tonal changes more excruciating than engaging.

Title: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

Cast: Kristen Bell, Michael Ealy, Tom Riley, Samsara Yett

Director: Michael Lehmann

Platform: Netflix

Rating: 2 and ½ stars

(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)

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