The Woman In The Fifth (2012) Review

The Woman In The Fifth

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

Year: 2012

Australian Cinema Release Date: 3rd May, 2012

Australian DVD Release Date: 20th June, 2012

Country: France, Poland, UK

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Screenwriter: Pawel Pawlikowski, Douglas Kennedy (novel)

Cast: Mohamed Aroussi (Moussa), Wilfred Benaiche (Lieutenant Coutard), Judith Burnett (Lorraine L’herbert), Geoffrey Carey (Laurent), Jean-Louis Cassarino (Dumont), Delphine Chuillot (Nathalie), Samir Guesmi (Sezer), Ethan Hawke (Tom Ricks), Marcela Iacub (Isabella), Joanna Kulig (Ania), Mamadou Minte (Omar), Julie Papillon (Chloe), Kristin Scott Thomas (Margit)

Runtime: 85 mins



Greg King: Stars(1.5)

Please check Greg’s The Woman In The Fifth review of that is available on

David Griffiths:

Dave’s review from Entertainment Scene 360

The Woman In The Fifth is one of those annoying films where the filmmaker has decided to try and do something a little different, but as a result totally confuses their audience to the point where they are going to feel completely cheated. Even worse is the fact that the film captivates you, sucks you in and leaves you with an ending that is likely to make your head hurt if you try to think about it too much.

Based on a book by Douglas Kennedy The Woman In The Fifth begins with a writer, Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) arriving in Paris. Ricks obviously has some undisclosed mental problems and his ex-wife Nathalie (Delphine Chuillot) is understandably  quick to prevent him from seeing his daughter, Chloe (Julie Papillon).

Ricks’ problems don’t end there. He soon finds himself left with nothing after he is robbed and is forced to take a room and a mysterious job from gangster, Sezer (Samir Guesmi). At first the job seems like the perfect side-job for a writer, he just has to sit in a room and let people in occasionally, all seems fine except he has no idea what the people are coming in to do.

Just to mess things up a little further Ricks also begins relationships with Sezer’s girlfriend, Ania (Joanna Kulig) who is totally in love with his work and also the older Margit (Kristen Scott Thomas) whom he meets at a writer’s party.

What is most disappointing is the fact that early on The Woman In The Fifth really does suck you in. The screenplay (penned by Pawel Pawilkowski who also directed the film) sets up the characters really well and even though there are a lot of questions about Ricks and what he has done in the past he is portrayed in such a way that you can’t help but like him and you want to see everything work out for him.

Sadly the film is ruined by Pawilkowski letting the film become totally confusing about three-quarters of the way into it. People will try to guess exactly what happened, but it is impossible for anybody to know completely, and even if the popular myth that Ricks is sinking deep into a mental breakdown is true, then it is Pawilkowski’s responsibility as a filmmaker to allow his audience to get at least a little insight into what is happening. You either do that, or you lose fans before you can even blink.

Despite that disappointment, there are some things that make The Woman In The Fifth a watchable film. It is great to see Ethan Hawke once again getting a meaty role. Despite some brilliant performances in recent times, especially in Daybreakers, he has been largely off the radar in Hollywood, a shame because he is a fine actor that normally delivers a powerful performance.

As usual, Kristin Scott Thomas also is on top of her game, but it is Joanna Kulig that outshines everyone around her. This Polish actress has been promising in roles in her homeland, but in The Woman In The Fifth she announces herself to the whole world as an actress who is somebody for whom to watch out.

It is hard to recommend The Woman In The Fifth as a good film to watch as the film loses its audience with an ending that is just a little too far ‘out there’ for any cinema goer to feel completely satisfied, because it ends up raising more questions than it answers.


Dave’s review from Buzz Magazine
When it comes to the world of films there is ‘good absurd’ and ‘bad absurd’. The sad thing about The Woman In The Fifth is that the film is going along nicely until director, Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer Of Love, Last Resort) decides to take it into the absurd area and fails miserable.
The film tells the story of Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke – Sinister, Exit Strategy) an American novelist with some suggested mental problems who travels to France to try and see his daughter, Chloe (Julie Papillon – newcomer), but his ex-wife, Nathalie (Delphine Chuillot – Mozart’s Sister, Pursuit) soon puts a stop to that.
After he is robbed Tom finds himself in Paris with nothing. He is then befriended by a gangster, Sezer (Samir Guesmi – My Worst Nightmare, The Counsel) who provides him with a strange job. When not locked in the room watching his screen he pursues relationships with the mature and erotic, Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas – Bel Ami, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen) as well as his young muse, Ania (Joanna Kulig – Elles, Maraton Tanca).
As mentioned previously The Woman In  The Fifth starts off as a very good film. As Nathalie cowers away from Tom you find yourself wondering what has happened in the past and why he can’t see his daughter. However Pawlikowski has such a desire to take this in a similar direction to Fight Club that he loses sight of the answers that the audience wants to see… and sadly the film collapses into the heap and rewards its audience with an ending that is confusing and disappointing to all extremes.
The film does serve as a good platform to remind everybody that Ethan Hawke really is one of the forgotten actors of Hollywood. Hawke commands the screen in every scene he is in. He is well supported by Joanna Kulig who proves she is a talented up and comer, however you can’t help but think that Kirsten Scott Thomas is wasted in her role…in fact it is a shame to such a talented actress given her best for so little in return.
If The Woman In The Fifith had finished fifteen minutes earlier it may have worked, but at the end of the day its weird ending just ruins it for everyone. A disappointing film that is only saved by Ethan Hawke.

Average Subculture Rating (out of 5): Stars(2)

IMDB Rating:  The Woman in the Fifth (2011) on IMDb

Other Subculture Media Reviews of ‘The Woman In The Fifth′: Nil.