REVIEW: ‘Watcher’ has important message which gets lost in execution

“Watcher” is a clever depiction of women being brushed off as paranoid — which, unfortunately, does not make for an incredibly exciting thriller. 

 

I began “Watcher” with the incorrect assumption that it would be based on the real-life events of the Broaddus family, as featured in the popular Buzzfeed Unsolved episode, “The Watcher.” After moving into a new home in 2014, the Broaddus family began to receive threatening letters from someone who called themselves “the Watcher,” who provided accurate descriptions of the house and their children. Two suspects were identified and even the family themselves fell under suspicion – but the case remains unsolved.

 

“Watcher,” however, begins with Julia and Francis, a young couple, moving to Bucharest, Romania for the husband’s job. The couple seems deeply in love, their new apartment is stunning and Julia is free to explore Bucharest while her husband works long hours. Much of the first half hour is dedicated to shots of coffee shops, museums and European city life as Julia wanders around alone. While I can appreciate this from an aesthetic perspective, it’s quite slow-placed for a movie that’s marketed as a thriller. 

 

Julia soon begins to feel increasingly isolated; as she does not speak Romanian, she has no professional goals of her own and is entirely alone. In social situations and while trying to make sense of her surroundings, she is completely reliant on Francis, who does speak Romanian. The imbalance in this power dynamic becomes clear when he makes a joke about her paranoia at a work party, assuming she wouldn’t be able to understand him. 

 

Unsettled by a murder nearby, Julia notices a man watching her nightly in the window across the street. She becomes aware of his presence in the movie theater and the supermarket. She instantly tells her husband and alerts the police where both are responsive to her concerns at first, until they grow tired of her complaints and begin to rationalize her fears. 

 

While her husband initially encouraged her to talk about what was bothering her, he becomes skeptical as each of her fears can be explained away, and his support becomes increasingly patronizing. He’s clearly supposed to be “one of the good ones,” as he’s affectionate, well-intentioned and even-tempered in contrast to Julia’s distress, but as is often the case in these movies, his failure to take his wife seriously has drastic consequences. 

 

Predictably, Julia gets her “I told you so” moment. As much as I appreciate the message that women shouldn’t be written off as hysterical, or that we should believe victims before it is too late, I found the execution to be rather unexciting. “Invisible Man” explored a similar concept, but in a much more creative and action-packed way. Instead, I found myself checking to see how much time was left. 

 

Aside from the climax of the movie, which was about ten minutes before the ending, there were only two scenes that made me hold my breath. Maybe that was the point – that we shouldn’t ignore our gut instincts, no matter how flimsy or insignificant our reasons may seem. 

 

In the end, however, I would have rather watched a movie adaptation of the Broaddus family’s watcher. 

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