14th – 27th October, DCA
Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, adapted from Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel of the same name, recounts the story of alcoholic Rachel (Emily Blunt) who has been left traumatized by her recent divorce and her inability to have a child. Every day she gets on a train. Every day, morning and evening, she takes the same route, which passes in front of the house where she and her now ex-husband (Justin Theroux) had lived happily. The dullness of Rachel’s existence finds a brief ray of light in a young couple with whom she grows fascinated while commuting to the city.
Like everybody, Rachel imagines other people’s lives. Like everybody, Rachel believes the grass is greener on the other side. The girl on the train could be any of us. We are all curious to know what is going on behind our neighbour’s doors. Most of the time, it is boring, even if we do not want to admit it. However, it goes differently for Rachel when the woman she is accustomed to seeing every day at her balcony, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), is reported missing. What happened? Deep down, Rachel is convinced she has something to do with Megan’s disappearance. Was she there? Did she see something?
Perhaps she drank too much. Perhaps she made this up. Perhaps she witnessed something horrible. Something she struggles to remember. Rachel needs to learn to trust again. Trust herself in a moment when none seems to give any credit to her suspicions. What started as a melodrama slowly drifts towards something heavier, a chilling mystery.
Paula Hawkins’ novel was an excellent thriller, and there was every reason to expect that the movie would achieve the same with such an intriguing, but somehow universal, synopsis. It had a six-month regular teasing, and the striking trailer released before the summer bode well. The project had the ambition and potential to become the next Gone Girl, David Fincher’s 2014 success. But, David Fincher is not just anyone, and perhaps the movie sabotaged itself by flirting with a Fincher-esque atmosphere instead of carving out its own identity. The film fails to transcribe the intensity of Hawkins’ novel onto the screen, despite the director’s best efforts to be faithful to the text. In fact, this faithfulness to the narrative structure seems to be at the root of this failure: the whole movie looks like a rather banal copy and paste. Taylor perfectly understood the aims at stake in The Girl on the Train, but unfortunately he doesn’t succeed in capturing its atmosphere.
While in the novel Hawkins presents each individual in such a way that doubt is cast on the innocence of all, Rachel included, Tate’s characters are not developed enough to place suspicion on any one subject. The flashback structure does lend some rhythm to the story and maintain a hint of suspense, but the police investigation process is barely mentioned, and the intertwining of Rachel, Ana (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan’s storylines is somewhat clumsy and confusing, to the point that the spectator might easily lose interest in discovering the circumstances of Megan’s disappearance. The end comes abruptly and could have been more powerful in many ways.
Among the generally very decent cast, Emily Blunt’s presence on the screen must be highlighted in particular. The actress, considered by many too pretty to play the role of Rachel (who is depressive, alcoholic, and overweight) delivers a strong and sincere performance. The movie certainly does the job of entertaining the audience, but will likely be rapidly forgotten. In short, The Girl on the Train is not bad at all. In fact, it’s almost good. Almost.
Amélie Berger Soraruff