Vanya Rose’s Woman in Car belongs within the subgenre of drama films where the protagonist is a woman on the verge. It’s a subgenre with a surprising crossover appeal because it has women who might kill someone. That possible homicidal lead is Helene Joy playing Anne, staring silently as other characters speak in muffled volumes around her. The cinematography captures her with a lens deserving of such a sophisticate, exercising like a bourgeois white woman in her 40s would. But she, a trophy wife, have other reasons for doing so. She is a former archer turned fiancée of a businessman on a South American trip. When that businessman returns to bilingual Quebec, they marry, smooth sailing. That’s until he soon to be stepson Owen comes home with a Turkish woman, Safiye (Liane Balaban). And Anne turns that woman into an obsession, driving around, watching Safiye from place to place.
Joy has a small but loyal following as the female lead in Murdoch Mysteries, which is basically porn without the sex. Her casting is perfect here, speaking with the faux British accent that Yorkville women use when they want people to hear them. Woman in Car plants seeds like her skinning a rabbit, making viewers feel like her story is going places. The film is trying something by not giving her a lot of lines but for most of the first act, all Anne does is say “Yes” to other characters. Her line delivery makes it seem like she’s aiming for emotional detachment but it ends up as unintentional comedy. Like if a mumble core film took place in a gaudy postmodern house in cottage country. It’s just as funny when Safiye does it. By the time Anne gets to explode, it feels so actor-y, making viewers lose their interest.