The Woman in the Window ending explained

·6-min read
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

So, it's finally here — after years of languishing in development hell, The Woman in the Window has arrived on Netflix. The movie stars Amy Adams as an agoraphobic woman named Anna Fox, who witnesses the murder of her neighbour across the street.

But not everything is as it seems – not only because Anna is mixing alcohol with medication that causes hallucinations, but because it seems that everyone else is out to confuse her. Before the movie even came out, news swirled of its overly convoluted story and plentiful reshoots that would likely have resulted in a bit of a jumbled mess.

Unsurprisingly, those rumours have been proven true. So here we're going to do our best to explain what exactly happens in The Woman in the Window. Spoilers follow.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

We begin with Anna on the phone to her daughter and husband (voiced by Anthony Mackie, who only appears in flashbacks) who are clearly living elsewhere while Anna recovers from a suicide attempt and gets treatment for her agoraphobia. When in conversation with her psychiatrist, she claims she's stopped drinking and so he prescribes her medicine that, when combined with alcohol, results in delusions.

He says her curiosity into the lives of her neighbours shows progress, but it soon becomes evident that her curiosity is bordering on obsession. Her new neighbours the Russells send their son Ethan (played by Fred Hechinger) over with a candle as a gift and the two bond.

Later, on Halloween, Anna tries to stop kids from egging her house but she faints when she opens the door and a woman helps her. This woman, Anna assumes, is Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) – Ethan's mom. They, too, bond.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

One night Anna hears a scream and witnesses "Jane" being stabbed by an obscured attacker. She calls the police, but when they arrive they reveal Jane is alive (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and thus begins the downward spiral of hallucinations mixed with sleuthing in which she discovers that Mr Russell's (Gary Oldman) former secretary died after being pushed out of a window, which is what precipitated the Russells' move from Boston to New York City.

All the while her tenant David (Wyatt Russell) is hanging around, a bit creepy, and tells Anna that he fled a Massachusetts conviction after a bar fight and punches a wall, displaying his anger management issues. Freaked out by the whole thing, Anna still tries to figure out what happened to "Jane" and accosts Ethan, yelling at him from across the street.

Ethan is seemingly afraid of his father, which is only justified when he turns up and slaps Ethan in front of Anna. Later, Anna opens an email and finds a picture of herself asleep — spooky. She calls the police and, coincidentally, the same two detectives from the murder night show up, and are unnecessarily hostile to her.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

They reveal that – dun dun dun – her family is DEAD. We learn via flashback that she and her husband had a fight over her previous infidelity and when her phone rings, they struggle over it while driving in the snow (yep!) and they crash with Anna coming out as the sole survivor.

After this revelation, Anna remembers that she saw "Jane's" earring in David's bedroom (during her previous snooping) and the cops – rightly! – ask why she was snooping. The whole thing doesn't end well, and they leave.

Anna asks her psychiatrist to take her off the medicine causing the hallucinations, but then proceeds to make a video serving as her last will before she presumably attempts suicide. However, as she's looking through photos she finds one in which she sees "Jane's" reflection in her wine glass.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

She asks David, who has come back to get his stuff before leaving for good, to look at it and he confirms that she is the woman he spent a night with, but her name is Katie and she is Ethan's biological mother who absconded when eight months pregnant. Mr Russell spent two years looking for her before finding her in a 'meth commune' in Oregon.

He took his son and she went to jail, only to get out and hunt down the Russell family to get her son back, presumably. She still claims she saw the murder, but David doesn't believe her and refuses to go to the police with her.

There's a sudden thud, and then Ethan appears wielding a knife, having knocked out David, and reveals that he has been spying on her from inside her house, murdered his father's former secretary as well as his biological mother Kate. He says he decided he's going to kill Anna, because her recklessness resulted in the death of her own daughter.

Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix
Photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix

Ethan goes into a long diatribe of how he's coming into his own as a serial killer, finding a pattern for himself and what he gets out of being a murderer — the pleasure in watching people die. Anna calls him on his 'bluff' and dumps her crushed up pills into her wine, before going on her own monologue about not wanting to live in a world where people like Ethan breathe.

Instead of downing her wine she smashes the bottle into Ethan's face. He chases her, but David grabs his ankle — to no avail; Ethan stabs him. They have a chase, which actually gets Anna out of the house and on to her roof where they fight dramatically in the rain.

In a brilliant bit of gore, Ethan stabs Anna in the face with a three pronged gardening fork, before they struggle over the skylight (which David previously mentioned was loose in a big neon light of foreshadowing) and Anna pushes him through it, rolling off just in time.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

She wakes in the hospital to one of the detectives, who does her a solid by giving her back her phone so she can delete the video she made so it won't become public knowledge, but likely, equally, won't mess up their case when going after the Russells for covering up Pam's murder as well as helping to move Katie's body.

Still with us?

The film ends nine months later, with Anna moving out of her house, cured of her agoraphobia. She delivers a quiet, but sweet, goodbye to her dead daughter's bedroom before leaving with her cat (who honestly is the best part of this movie).

Despite being confusing as hell and edited so haphazardly it's hard to tell what's happening, to whom, and when, the movie itself is actually fairly straightforward in the end. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite reach the heady heights of the slick, Hitchockian erotic thriller it so desperately wants to be.

The Woman in the Window is out on Netflix now.

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