★ ★ 1/2
Starring Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Written by Douglas Kennedy, Pawel Pawlikowski, Directed by Pawel Pawlikowkski
Nothing is more disappointing than becoming involved in an intricately laid out mystery only to ultimately be let down with an anti-climactic "twist." Now, of course when skillfully weaved throughout the story, a twist ending can work and leave the audience feeling like they just saw something fresh and groundbreaking. However, if it's not well thought out and leaves too many unanswered questions, it can leave the audience feeling cheated and dissatisfied. The Woman in the Fifth is guilty of using evasive tactics we've seen before in films like Lady in the Water and The Village (both of which incidentally, marked the decline of the career of director M. Night Shyamalan).
The dark mystery begins when college lecturer Tom Ricks (Hawke) travels from America to France in an attempt to build a relationship with his six-year-old daughter. The films hints at his hidden violent background, which piques our interest and begins what we expect to be a complex thriller. After Ricks is robbed, he's completely out of money and taken in by a French cafe owner (Samir Guesmi) who houses him and gives him a job indirectly involved in scandal and illegal activity. Meanwhile, he meets a woman (Kristen Scott Thomas) with whom he begins a passionate affair. It's not long before a web of depravity and violence is spun and the audience begins to question the difference between reality and psychosis.
Because the plot includes plenty of small details, the exposition feels pretty lengthy and it doesnt help that some of the scenes fall into the indie movie cliche of having no dialogue and excessive artistic scenery shots. But even so, Hawke's performance is captivating enough to keep the story interesting- he's able to convey the violent potential of his character underneath the harmless facade and provides a certain level of stress and tension to the film. So the only real flaw of The Woman in the Fifth is its conclusion which "tricks" the audience and turns a complex story into a simple one, offering only one answer to the many questions it poses and essentially nullifying the interesting aspects of the film.