Who’s watching Watcher? With any luck, a lotta folks.
The tense thriller, lensed in Bucharest, Romania, a locale more closely associated with buffet king, the waddling Steven Seagal, employs a KISS – keep it simple approach: a creep stalks a woman in a high rise, peering through a window across the courtyard of their shared Soviet bloc-style accommodations.
But a straightforward, Hitchcockian affair this is not. Watcher adds the disorienting element of a newcomer protagonist, someone neither versed in the local tongue nor familiar with her surroundings, adding a richness and depth you don’t typically see with this kind of thriller, which can veer into the cheesy even if Brian De Palma is in the director’s chair.
Wedded Jules and Francis are New Yorkers, and he’s returning to the motherland to take on a prominent ad exec position. Fluent in the language, he naturally adapts, but Jules (expertly portrayed by It Follows’ Maika Monroe) is left to her own devices stuck in isolation, dawdling in cinemas and cafes – that is until, a creepy encounter in a grocery store.
Director Chloe Okuno has said the genesis of Watcher is as much inspired by the canonical work of Roman Polanski, for example as it is Lost in Translation. And this most apparent both literally and figurately: she made the stylistic choice NOT to subtitle the Romanian language, which disorients the viewer. And while admittedly annoying at first, it’s a gambit that helps lure you into the story and get lost in Jules’ plight.
It’s the supporting cast who add weight to the mix, the quirky mix of high rise denizens and how they all relate to the main characters, and also the cultural and linguistic misunderstandings.
The writing and performances are sharp, and the denouement handled with a lot of savvy.
***3/4 (out of 5)