'Woman In The Fifth' a mystery

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

The Woman In The Fifth is a haunting story about art, loss of identity and madness. It's a thing of beauty to watch Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas work together, but we'd be lying if we said we understood this drama. Much happens in The Woman In The Fifth, but what's real and what's imagined are hard to discern.

Hawke plays an American writer who has been disgraced in some fashion. He arrives in Paris hoping to repair things with his ex-wife and little daughter, but as soon as she sees him, his ex phones the police. He falls asleep on a city bus and gets robbed; without luggage or his wallet, he washes up in a grubby cafe and rents a squalid room from a shady character. Said shady character/crime boss gives him a job as a guard in a locked room, overseeing some clandestine activity. The light bulb in the locked room makes annoying noises. It's all very creepy and strange. What goes on there? We'll never know.

He meets a beautiful widow (Scott Thomas) at a party and they become lovers. She has a tragic past. He also gets involved with the crime boss' beautiful young girlfriend (Joanna Kulig), but for all the tender lovemaking, there's always a sense that Hawke's character is barely keeping the lid on his potentially overwhelming rage. He hangs around the school playground and the park in his daughter's neighbourhood, watching her and trying to engage her in conversation, but his outsider status as a parent is regularly confirmed.

The film is moody, intense and sexy, and marked by an atmosphere of doubt and fear. Hawke's character is trying to find his way back to creating, to writing, but he's on a downward journey and seems to be losing his grasp on reality. His character is myopic, literally and figuratively; he wears thick glasses, and just what he sees (or doesn't see) is open to interpretation. This appears to be a portrait of a man slowly losing his mind.

The Woman In The Fifth is a thriller and perhaps even a murder mystery, but much is left unexplained. Still, it's engrossing; if you're content with the journey and don't much care about the destination, this one's for you.

This film is rated 14A


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