Only in the realm of Patricia Highsmith would somebody follow the same tenants of “an eye for an eye,” when it comes to handling a stalker with a “stalk for a stalk.”
Once bank clerk Jenny (Julia Stiles) finally catches the man she'd intuitively sensed lurking in the woods just out of sight night after night, instead of calling for the police and her boyfriend to come stay with her, Jenny – touched by the man's overly polite manner and depressive state – invites him into her home to chat.
New to the area and in the midst of an ugly divorce from a woman (Caroline Dhavernas) who still nags him with phone calls, bad jokes about getting back together and feeble requests, aeronautics designer Robert Forrester (Paddy Considine) tells Jenny that he's drawn to her because her happy domesticity of washing dishes or listening to music in the kitchen always seems to rub off on himself.
And though he promises the younger woman that he won't return to snoop again, it's far from the last time they catch sight of one another as in a sardonic turn of events, Jenny begins stalking Robert harder than a schoolgirl with a wicked crush, rambling about fate playing a hand in the way that certain individuals cross paths before soon she becomes a permanent fixture in his life, forsaking her handsome but too intense boyfriend Greg (James Gilbert) for fellow stalker Robert.
Following an adaptation from French thriller mastermind Claude Chabrol in the early 1990s, writer/director Jamie Thraves' moodily atmospheric interpretation marks the second adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1962 novel.
And while – much like Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley -- elements of psychology threaten to outweigh the traditional Film Noir aspects as Greg goes missing and Robert becomes the chief suspect, it's a mentally curious work that you sense had enough promise to have become nearly as successful as other Highsmith works, had it not been stripped away from its mysterious elements so completely.
Instead of leaving a few questions considering the fates of a few characters unanswered to heighten the suspense or continuing to explore the author's consistently uncomfortable and none too appropriate sense of humor to make the work darkly ironic, by simply letting everything unfold without any questions, the movie goes on a dull autopilot. And as such, the delightful weirdness of characters vanishes as The Cry of the Owl simply moves from point a to point b with little passion or interest.
A cold, calculating affair that doesn't quite manage to find an even tone throughout despite some uniformly good work by its two lead actors, overall, it's a slightly below average mood piece that may work even better not as an adaptation of Highsmith but rather a film school assignment for budding writers and directors to see how they would've taken some of the same elements to make it much more involving and successful as a feature film.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.