Directed by Tate Taylor and based on the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train stars Emily Blunt as Rachel, the girl on the train. Rachel takes the same train to Manhattan every weekday, passing the home of her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), his wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby daughter. It has been a very difficult divorce (Tom was having an affair with Anna for years before the divorce) and Rachel has not been able to let go, drowning herself in alcohol and self-pity. She drinks so much that she frequently can’t remember what she did when she was drunk, (a fact which lies at the heart of this psychological thriller).
Recently, Rachel has been obsessing about Megan (Haley Bennett), the young woman who lives two doors down from Tom and Anna and has become their nanny. Rachel looks at Megan from the train and sees a perfect marriage (with Scott, played by Luke Evans), the kind of marriage she had always wanted, until one morning she thinks she sees Megan kissing another man. This infuriates Rachel and she goes straight to the bar, where she gets drunk and then goes to the neighbourhood where Tom and Anna and Megan live. The next morning, Rachel wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of what happened to her the night before, and discovers that Megan has gone missing. The mystery begins.
While Rachel is the central character in The Girl on the Train, we also get to see pieces of the story from the view of Megan and Anna. This is very much a film about women (and probably made for women, given that 90% of the audience of 80 people in my theatre were women). Perhaps this explains the odd choice of style, which moves from a dreamlike, poetic Terence Malick to various forms of Hitchcock (there are clear resemblance to Rear Window and Vertigo). I occasionally appreciated the style but it heightens the sense of melodrama that seems out of place in a thriller like this. This might have been forgivable if the film had had more character development, but this was lacking.
When the film heats up near the end, it kind of falls of the rails (yeah, I had to), feeling too clever for its own good.
This review sounds very negative, so let me say that I found The Girl on the Train very much worth watching, if for no other reason than to see Blunt’s terrific performance as Rachel. Few actors could make such a pathetic character sympathetic, but Blunt pulls it off. Ferguson and Bennett are also very good, but the male actors could have done better.
As you know, I’m a fan of quiet, low-action psychological thrillers, so even with all of its flaws I enjoyed watching The Girl on the Train and especially Blunt’s performance. A solid ***. My mug is up.