The Woman in the Fifth

November 16, 2011 0 By Fans
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Still of Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas in The Woman in the Fifth


A college lecturer flees to Paris after a scandal costs him his job. In the City of Lights, he meets a widow who might be involved in a series of murders.

Release Year: 2011

Rating: 6.0/10 (181 voted)

Pawel Pawlikowski

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig

American writer Tom Ricks comes to Paris desperate to put his life together again and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter. When things don't go according to plan, he ends up in a shady hotel in the suburbs, having to work as a night guard to make ends meet. Then Margit, a beautiful, mysterious stranger walks into his life and things start looking up. Their passionate and intense relationship triggers a string of inexplicable events… as if an obscure power was taking control of his life.

Writers: Douglas Kennedy, Pawel Pawlikowski


Ethan Hawke

Tom Ricks

Kristin Scott Thomas


Joanna Kulig


Samir Guesmi


Delphine Chuillot


Julie Papillon


Geoffrey Carey


Mamadou Minte


Mohamed Aroussi


Judith Cassarino


Judith Burnett

Lorraine Lherbert

Marcela Iacub


Wilfred Benaïche

Lieutenand Coutard

Pierre Marcoux


Rosine Favey

La traductrice

Release Date: 16 November 2011

Filming Locations: Paris, France

User Review

Pawel Pawlikowski populates a lonely Paris with an unreliable narrator and a fascinating international cast

Rating: 8/10

Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) tells the immigration officer at the airport
that he has come to Paris to live, write a novel, and take care of his
daughter Chloe while his ex-wife works during the day. He probably
believes these words as he says them out loud; however, the audience
quickly learns Tom is not welcomed by his ex-wife and six year old
Chloe thought daddy was in prison. We never learn exactly where Tom
came from but it is most likely somewhere unpleasant. Through a
combination of errors, Tom manages to have his luggage stolen, the
police are after him for violating a restraining order, and he winds up
at a seedy café/hotel conveniently located at the last stop on the bus
line, never a good neighborhood. Tom Ricks has hit bottom.

The title The Woman in the Fifth refers to Margit Kadara (Kristin Scott
Thomas). While failing spectacularly at small talk at and upscale
function for writers and their elite admirers, Tom has one of those
moments where Margit is the only person in the room he sees, even
though there are 50 some people in the room. They strike up a
conversation where she learns he is a novelist, has had one book
published which was moderately successful, but is now obviously baffled
on if there will be a second book. Tom learns Margit has lived
everywhere, speaks six or seven languages fluently, was a muse and
translator for her late Hungarian husband, and now seems poised to
volunteer to become Tom's muse.

Tom falls into a job which could only be invented by a novelist. The
Woman in the Fifth is adapted from the eponymous 2007 novel by Douglas
Kennedy which puts Tom in a job where he is confined to a bare room for
six hours every night to watch a video screen. When men appear at the
door, they will say a prepared phrase, and if they say the correct
phrase, Tom is to press the buzzer to open a door down the hall. He
does not know who these men are, why they are coming to the door, or
who they are meeting behind that door. What Tom discovers is that
behind that door comes some yelling, occasional screaming, and the
power fluctuates sometimes during that screaming. This is the perfect
job for a novelist who can write uninterrupted for six hours a night
and the perfect mysterious predicament for a novelist to place his
protagonist in.

Two other characters straight out of a novel populate Tom's hotel.
There is the bar maid (Joanna Kulig) who takes an interest in Tom and
there is his next door neighbor, Omar, who never flushes their shared
toilet and takes an extra special dislike to Tom when he finds out he
is American. As Tom sleepily shuffles around Paris to visit Margit,
keep tabs on his ex-wife and daughter, and spend his six hours a night
behind a locked door with a buzzer, it is refreshing to see him fall
back to the hotel and develop a sweet rapport with the bar maid.

The movie is mysterious, languid and seems to be setting the audience
up for something. What that 'something' is I will not say and you will
hopefully not learn before you see the film. Paris seems empty and
lonely and after awhile I just wanted Tom to take a nap because as time
progresses, he looks dead tired and unaware of his surroundings. Pawel
Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love, Last Resort), the director and
screenplay adaptor, allows time to flow by and rarely defines it. The
audience loses track of how many days Tom has been in Paris or if it
becomes tomorrow or the day after.

Ethan Hawke does a very good job of keeping the audience on edge about
Tom. He is frequently quiet and contemplative as he melts into a café
booth but every now and then there are loud outbursts when a bit of
news or a situation displeases him. I have seen variations of Kristin
Scott Thomas as Margit before. She is confident, knows how to relax her
company, and easily handles Tom when he is falling apart; she knows
exactly how to put him back together. Joanna Kulig as the bar maid is a
wonderful new presence on screen. She is obviously native Polish like
the director, but must converse in two other languages (English and
French) along with the rest of the cast. The script shows a narrative
strength as I did not realize very often as it seamlessly slipped from
French to English and back again.

After the screening, I overheard a lot of people asking their friends
to explain what happened and either agreeing with them in 'aha' moments
or shaking their heads in disbelief. The Woman in the Fifth will most
likely polarize the audience between those who are familiar with films
such as these and those that are unfamiliar with being blindsided and
bewildered. I recommend The Woman in the Fifth for both types of
audience members. For the indoctrinated, you will appreciate a shadowy
script with a fascinating unreliable narrator. For the untested viewer,
go and enjoy an intriguing international cast and get your questions
ready at the end.