Ethan Hawke is mindful of his leading role in a fairly engrossing French supernatural thriller (a French/English/Polish production originally entitled La Femme Du Veme) from Pawel Pawlikowski (who made the gratifying My Summer of Love). Perhaps a somewhat engaging, haunting art house variation on a mainstream picture like the relatively recent "Unknown" which starred Liam Neeson. Hawke has found more than refuge in this part of Europe if his work with Julie Delpy Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are any indication.
The Woman in the Fifth fits into a straightforward narrative with snippets of mystery as Hawke's troubled U.S. writer Tom Ricks goes abroad to the City of Lights to try to reconcile with ex-wife Nathalie (Delphine Chuillot) and young daughter Chloe (Julie Papillon). But, a restraining order and stolen luggage leaves Tom under the auspices of a sleazy illicit Sezer (Samir Guesmi) and lodging at a shady hotel with employment as a night watchman in an odd place.
That leaves him his days eavesdropping at the park on the loved ones he tried in vain to reconnect with; he takes up more intimate relations with Ania (Joanna Kulig), a waitress and an older Margit (a busy Kristin Scott-Thomas of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) at a literary affair who's from the fifth arrondissement.
Even with a tenuous vantage point from someone like Tom, Hawke allows for a pretty layered, edgy portrait that holds up well, especially against the alluring, though furtive Margit which Scott-Thomas does with chic, albeit opaque aplomb. Her character is part of one of the major (read: jarring) plot twists as a taut mood is established for a while before Pawlikowski lets things meander a bit.
Yet, for the odd, unnerving rhythms in The Woman in the Fifth and recurring insert shots, the director offers a vivid visual palette in union with Ryszard Lenczewski's cinematography in capturing a unique side of Paris that proves disarming. Nonetheless, in the end a relative low-key character study imbued with impassioned, psychological stroking proves too discouraging than what the protagonist and plenty of filmmaking, production value finesse brought to it.