Netflix’s New Mystery leaves no Lasting Impressions

Sarah Buchmann, Staff Writer

Drawing by Liam Killian

 

Netflix’s new release, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, is a strange amalgamation of a psychological thriller and extremely dark comedy. This mixed-bag of a show stars Kristen Bell as Anna, a divorced alcoholic mourning the death of her young daughter. When a handsome stranger Neil (Tom Riley) and his young daughter Emma (Samsara Yett) move in across the street, Anna is fascinated – and borderline obsessed. And when she sees Neil’s girlfriend Lisa (Shelley Hennig) has been murdered, Anna makes it her job to solve the case. 

The convoluted story adds to the satirical style of the show. Anna’s ex-husband is a forensic psychiatrist and FBI profiler, who took their daughter to work one day and accidentally left her in the room with a serial cannibal, ultimately leading to the little girl’s death. Anna also has a crippling fear of rain, Neil is a widower, Emma’s former teacher died mysteriously, Lisa is not who she says she is and the town police chief is completely inept.Almost every episode has an overly dramatic reveal or character development, only adding to the convoluted story. And just when you think you’ve solved the murder mystery, another piece to the puzzle gets added and throws a wrench in your current theory. 

Just watching The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is about as difficult as saying the title three times fast. Your mind is constantly trying to piece things together. Anna is an unreliable narrator as she mixes pills and alcohol, hallucinates, consistently doubts herself and lets her imagination get the best of her. Some of the scenes only consist of Anna imagining what could have happened, which can be misleading if you’re not fully paying attention. It’s also  hard to stay focused with this show. The dialogue can be boring and often repetitive. At first, the  deadpan delivery of lines catches you off guard, and then you get that it’s a running gag. Every time Anna unveils a clue – even if it happens in the same 30 seconds – she says “Bingo” like a cheesy detective, throwing it back to Bell’s days as Veronica Mars

But it’s these homages and inside jokes that make the show entertaining. For fans of psychological thrillers, there are references to more famous works like The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window. Both The Woman in the House Across the Street and The Woman in the Window, a 2021 Netflix film starring Amy Adams, depict women named Anna who witness murders in the houses acros the street, suffer from vivid hallucinations because of medications and are continuously gaslighted by everyone around them. 

While the movie takes on a much more serious tone than the show, Bell stated in an interview with the Today Show: “There’s so much formula to [psychological thrillers] that we thought it was about time that somebody poked fun at it.” Bell also says that the ridiculously long title of the show itself is just another joke: “We’re hoping that the title will tip you to the fact that we are making fun of the genre the entire time.”

The acting itself is okay. Bell brings her all per usual, and says how her investment in the character is another part of what makes this show so sardonic. “I feel like I gave a pretty sincere performance and then it ended up just being really comedic,” Bell said in her interview with the Today Show. 

Bell defends her performance, saying that everything else in the show is funny, but with the complex weaving of the plotlines and overarching theme of grief, it’s difficult for humor to be done properly in this sphere. Bell is practically the only good part of the show, because she has experience with gritty subjects with comedic spins. The Critics Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says, “If this sendup of literary potboilers suffers from being as glacially paced as its own whopper of a title, at least Kristen Bell makes for delightfully deadpan company.”

Since the show’s release last week on January 28, it has earned 6.4 out of 10 stars on IMDb, a 52 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 75 percent from Google users. Personally, it’s a forgettable show. It’ll keep you entertained in the moment, but once it’s no longer in your view, you’ll disregard it completely. It’s worth the watch if you love Kristen Bell and want a psychological thriller with an ending that’ll hit you like a Mack truck driven by a nine year old, but you really won’t miss anything if you skip this one.

 

3 out of 5 stars.