Film: The Woman in the Fifth (2011)
Cast includes: Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Kristin Scott Thomas (Gosford Park), Joanna Kulig (Elles), Samir Guesmi (Tell No One)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love)
Genre: Drama | Thriller, based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy (85 minutes) Partially in French with subtitles
He tells the customs agent that he's planning to relocate to Paris because his wife and little girl are living here. But when he gets to the apartment, his door code doesn't work. He finally does get in, but it's obvious that his wife isn't happy to see him. "Can't we just talk like normal people?" he pleads. "You're not normal," she says, as she calls the police. On the way out, he sees Chloé in front of the building. "Mom said you were in prison." Tom never even has a chance to give her the giraffe toy. After falling asleep on the bus, Tom finds himself at the end of the line. He's been robbed of everything but the giraffe. He'll need favors from strangers, but this is a pretty rough neighborhood. You wouldn't expect Monsieur Sezer to let Tom have the room on credit, but he does... although to be honest, there's probably not much demand for this dingy little room... sharing the toilet with a hostile rapper guy who won't even flush.
Tom is reduced to watching Chloé from afar, like a stalker. After she gets to school, Tom kills time in a local bookstore. He's surprised to see they still have his book, "Forest Life." The bookseller recognizes Tom and invites him to a literary group next week. Maybe he'll go... maybe not. In the meantime, Tom writes long letters to Chloé... "Dear Chloé. These last few years have been so hard on our family. But I'm here now, and I'll never leave you..." When Monsieur Sezer offers Tom a job, Tom can hardly turn it down. All he has to do is sit in a creepy office for 6 hours starting at 10:00pm... with the door locked, watching a monitor and buzzing certain people in. "What the fuck are you people doing," Tom wonders. At the literary party, Tom meets Margit, who seems to know all about him... "You're a novelist... not a very happy one." She gives Tom her card. "You should call me... anytime after 4."
Although this movie gets off to a quick start, it takes quite a while before we begin to see where the story elements might be going. It's done in an interesting suspenseful way that does keep us involved. If you're going to enjoy this film, you have to be able to relax and not worry about where it's going to go. Tom is suspended between different worlds... his unhappy family situation, the seedy hotel with the strange job, and Margit, the mysterious woman in the 5th arrondissement. There's not a single part of Tom's life that he has any control over. It feels like his whole existence is as allusive as the forest he wrote about in his first novel. Margit thinks it's a good thing. "Sometimes you need a good disaster to get you started. I believe if you play your cards right, you have the makings of a great novel."
2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A novelist relocates to Paris to be near his wife and daughter but finds himself caught up in sinister events
Rated: R (Sexual content)
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking
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