Before The Woman in the Window became a highly-anticipated Netflix movie starring Amy Adams, it was a buzzy novel. Author A.J. Finn (aka Dan Mallory) released the suspense book in 2018, and his New York City murder mystery became a massive best-seller. But bringing a novel to the screen always results in some changes, and this case was no different. These The Woman in the Window book-to-movie differences show how this twisty thriller could've unfolded in other ways.
Warning: Major spoilers for The Woman in the Window follow. The Woman in the Window tells the story of Anna (Adams), an agoraphobic, New York psychologist who is unable to leave her Harlem brownstone. Separated from her family for unknown reasons, she has a substance abuse disorder and struggles to remedy her situation with alcohol and a variety of prescription medications. However, after a new family called the Russells moves in across the street, Anna makes some much-needed new friends through the mother, Jane (Julianne Moore), and her teenage son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger).
But Jane and Ethan hint that Russell patriarch Alastair (Gary Oldman) is controlling and perhaps even abusive, and after Anna seemingly sees Jane stabbed through her window, she's shocked when Alastair claims she'd never met his wife. To make matters more confusing, the woman he introduces as Jane (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an entirely different woman.
As Anna races to solve the mystery of Jane's potential death, she is forced to contend with claims she is losing her grip on reality and the possibility that her own life is in danger. Although the movie and book's many twists mostly unfold in a similar format, the new Netflix film differs from its source material in several key ways.
In the book, Anna regularly speaks to her family on the phone.
Throughout both iterations of The Woman in the Window, Anna often talks to her estranged husband, Ed (Anthony Mackie), and young daughter, Olivia (Mariah Bozeman), who mysteriously lives far away. In the novel, she speaks to them over the phone, but in the movie, viewers simply hear their voices. This immediately makes it much clearer that Anna's relationship with her family isn't what it seems.
Anna has a physical therapist named Bina.
Anna is a little less alone in the source material. In addition to seeing a psychiatrist, she also has a physical therapist named Bida. The two become close, and Bida even helps her research Alastair's past after Jane is seemingly murdered.
Anna talks to other agoraphobes in an online forum.
Book Anna often chats with other agoraphobes online and becomes particularly close with a user called @grannielizzie, who is struggling to move on after her husband's death. However, this storyline is cut from the movie entirely.
David and Anna have a short-lived relationship.
David (Wyatt Russell), the tenant who lives in Anna's spare bedroom, has a pretty different relationship with her in each version of The Woman in the Window. The two actually sleep together early on in the book, but come nowhere near doing so in the film adaptation.
In fact, shortly before Jane's murder, Anna hears David emotionally comfort a mysterious woman —presumably more than just a friend — in his room.
The email sender who threatens Anna claims to be Jane Russell.
In a particularly eerie scene, Anna receives an email containing a photo of her sleeping, although she had seemingly been alone in her house. Although the message is anonymous in director Joe Wright's film, the book makes things even creepier because the email is supposedly from Jane herself.
The specifics of Anna's car crash are changed.
One of the story's major twists is that Anna's husband and daughter didn't move — they died in a car crash while driving through a snowstorm during a family vacation. Because of the storm, they were unable to get help, and Ed and Olivia end up dying while Anna survives and develops agoraphobia as a result of her trauma. She also feels guilty because the accident happens after Ed and Anna decide to separate because she had an affair.
Each version of The Woman in the Window recounts the accident a little differently: In the book, Ed tells their daughter about the separation at the beginning of the vacation, and an upset Olivia wants to leave immediately in spite of the snowstorm. But in the movie, the crash occurs as the family is on their way to their destination, and Anna looses focus while driving.
Anna learns about Ethan's true parentage in different ways.
Right before Anna attempts suicide in the movie, David appears and tells her that the mysterious woman who had been in his room is actually Jane, who tells David she isn't really Jane at all — her name is Katie, and she isEthan's biological mother. It turns out that Katie ran away shortly before Ethan was born, and raised him alongside abusive boyfriends while she battled substance abuse.
When Ethan was two, Alastair and Jane #2 (aka the real Jane) found Ethan and took him away from Katie, but she managed to find them again.
In Finn's novel, Ethan tells Anna all this instead of David. It turns out Ethan is actually @grannielizzie, and had been chatting with Anna online to get information about her family history after choosing her as his next victim.
It's Jane #2 who stabs Katie.
In the book, Jane #2 stabs Katie after she becomes afraid that Ethan's biological mother would take him away. Instead, Wright's film made Ethan the killer.
Anna tries to convince Ethan that Alastair isn't his real father.
Both iterations feature a climactic scene in which Ethan chases Anna up to her roof and attempts to kill her. But in the novel, Anna attempts to stall for time by telling Ethan that Alastair isn't his biological father, and that Katie told her his real father was a kind architect.
Anna doesn't ultimately leave her brownstone.
At the end of the film, Anna permanently leaves her brownstone nine months later, and even steps outside into a cab with her cat, Punch. But the book ends much sooner after her confrontation with Ethan, as Bina helps Anna work up the courage to step out onto her roof and into the sunlight.
If you're ready to check out these changes for yourself, you're in luck: The Woman in the Window is now streaming on Netflix.