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The Woman in the Fifth directed by Paweł Pawlikowski; released in 2011

What is there to say about this film? Is it a romance, is it a drama, is it a violent thriller? If you were to combine all three of those genres, you would still probably be wrong. The film starts out as an innocent story of a broken man, with an unexplained past wanting to get closer to his six-year-old daughter in a small unpopulated unnamed French town. From then on, the levels of intrigue, suspense and confusion mount and you are pulled quickly and cleanly through a timeless period in the life of an American writer who may or may not be completely sane. He is used differently by three women, his wife hates him and sees him as the reason why they broke up, which may be wrong, as you are again, much like his past, not given any sort of basis to understand their relationship. Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) is his escape, the one he uses to pour out all his feelings and needs without any censorship; the scenes with Margit, once the film is finished add to the confusion of the entire movie but at the same time help you understand what is going on with the other women in the film. The final woman, Ania, played kindly by Joanna Kulig is the one who truly loves him but the one he shows most negativity towards, which completely explains the frame of mind he is in. Much like the classic David Fincher film ‘Fight Club’, this film doesn’t fully explain itself to the very end, which makes for, at points, some tedious viewing but at the same time the intrigue is so much that you can’t help but watch it till the very end. This may have been the point of the film and if it was, the film maker has more than achieved what they set out to do. If Pawlikowski set out to confuse you on a level that is hard to explain but when viewed, easy to understand, in a world so close to reality that you could be there, then this could be one of the best films I have seen in recent years. Ethan Hawke’s French is great and acting along side a legend of 80’s French Cinema, Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s not hard to see why this film has been highly praised and with the use of American English speech throughout, this film could easily make the move into the more commercial market. I also enjoyed the performance of the French supporting cast, mainly the inhabitants of the hotel, who were as close to reality as you could get, which is in great contrast to the rest of the film, as it seemed like one long dream sequence, reminiscent of Cameron Crowe’s ‘Vanilla Sky’. I enjoyed this film and believe it will see Ethan Hawke go on to achieve even better things in the future and also underline the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas as one of the best actors of the last 30 years. I would recommend this to fans of French Cinema and the two main stars.

8/10