Woman in the Fifth, The
- Released: Thursday, 03 May 2012
- Runtime: 85 mins.
- Distributor: Madman Entertainment
A reviewer-friend, after seeing this psychological drama, asked me to let him know what I thought of the ending of the film and what it meant. So, this request made me pay more attention all the way through, a conscious effort, more than usual. Just as well, because I was able to pick up some clues, visual and verbal, that occurred throughout the film. While I wouldn’t guarantee that I could write a detailed synopsis, I think the basic meaning was clear enough – until I heard some of the local reviewers puzzling over what happened.
If that sounds intriguing, this is your film. It has a brief running time and is directed by Polish, Pawel Pawelowski, who made two interesting small-budget features in England in the last ten years, The Last Resort and My Summer of Love.
The Fifth is one of the arrondisements of Paris where the film is set (based on a novel by American, Douglas Kennedy). We travel to several of these arrondissments. First to where US literature professor and novelist, Tom (Ethan Hawke), goes to find his estranged wife and his daughter, who promptly warns him off and calls the police. We don’t quite know the reasons for the hostility but his wife tells their daughter that her father has been in prison. Next, he travels by bus into a seedier neighbourhood, multi-ethnic as well, and finds that his suitcase and money have been stolen while he was asleep. Later, he goes more up-market to a literary party where he encounters Margit (the ever tantalisingly interesting Kristin Scott Thomas) and then to her apartment in the 5th.
In the meantime, he is offered a surveillance job by the owner of the dingy hotel where he is allowed to stay. Shady dealings here and some threats but we don’t quite know what. Tom also has a boorish neighbor – and his criticisms of him lead Tom to the police station.
If this sounds intriguing, then this is your film.
By this stage, we know enough about Tom to wonder about his life, his mental condition, his imaginary world, so that we can make sense of the final option that he makes after making sure his daughter (who seems to have temporarily disappeared) is safe. And, the question of who is this woman in the fifth still remains something of an enigma.