A mighty confusing psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train partly suffers by overdoing the signaling of time frames on the screen. It takes ages to figure out just what is going on and by then you can’t help thinking it is all too hard.
Devastated by her recent divorce, Rachel (Emily Blunt) spends her daily rail commute daydreaming about the seemingly perfect couple that live in a house that her train passes every day. That is until one morning she sees something happen there that shocks her and she subsequently becomes entangled in a mystery. Rachel used to be married to Tom (Justin Theroux), but try as they did she couldn’t conceive a child. He has since moved on and lives with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby in the home he and Rachel used to share. Rachel, in turn, has taken to the bottle in a big way and her life has spiraled out of control. She still obsesses over her broken marriage.
To distract herself from a life that’s grown so aimless, Rachel develops an obsession with the occupants of another house on her train route, a few doors down from where she used to live. There, blissfully unaware that a stranger is longingly watching them, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) go about their business. Rachel catches daily glimpses of the stunning Megan and handsome Scott, only Rachel’s fantasy is hardly the reality. As Rachel’s self destructive ways gather pace, she and the two women and two men’s lives intersect and collide with shocking consequences.
The Girl on the Train is based upon the best selling novel by former journalist Paula Hawkins. After its publication in January 2015, the book became one of the fastest-selling novels in history, with more than 15 million copies sold globally. In its first week it landed in the top spot of The New York Times Best Sellers’ List and it remained on the list for more than a year.
The inspiration was Hawkins’ daily experiences on the commuter rail through London. “There was one particular route where the train was always breaking down. I would sit and look into these apartment blocks and you could see right into someone’s living room,” she says. “I was always hoping I’d see something interesting, although I never did. But it started my imagination going and that’s where the germ of the story came from.” Her book has been turned into a screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary).
I’m afraid that I thought The Girl on the Train went all over the shop before it got down to the nitty gritty and by then I had all but lost interest. The premise was a decent one, but its execution as a film was flawed. I am not convinced the direction from Tate Taylor (The Help) was tight enough.
At times the movie crossed the line into melodrama and not all the performances were compelling. To me it had a telemovie feel, rather than that of a big screen release.
Also featuring Allison Janney as a detective, The Girl on the Train raised questions in my mind about what could have been rather than what was. It scores a 5½ to 6 out of 10.
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Allison Janney, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Laura Prepon, Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Lisa Kudrow
Release Date: 6 October 2016
Rating: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television