Film Review: The Girl on the Train

7 mins read

by Beth McClellan

After reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ this past summer, I was anxious to see if the film could live up to its best-selling predecessor.

The Girl on the Train’ is one of the most highly anticipated films of the autumn, as a dedicated and intrigued fan base – already spawned from the book by Paula Hawkins – flock to their local cinemas to see the graphic crime thriller come to life. Despite the success of the book, many people have spoken out on social media about their disappointment, while it has also received a mere 44% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie has an age rating of 15, and for good reason!

The film, directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) is eerie, disturbing and occasionally pornographic. It is however, in its plainest form, a murder mystery, involving several suspects to whom the audience must figure out which is the criminal. It has many unexpected moments including a dramatic twist, which has brought forward comparisons to David Fincher’s famous ‘Gone Girl’.

Despite this, some of the book’s character and charm that I found so appealing is unfortunately lost in this Americanised version of the story. Originally set in the outskirts of London, the setting has now been moved over 3,500 miles away to the suburbs of upstate New York.

As Brits, taking the train is a very common occurrence for most of us and is something we can connect to on a personal level. However, the sights seen by ‘The Girl on the Train’ are a far cry from those that can be seen from a British traveler.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) takes a train every day which passes a series of grand, rustic style houses. These houses are usually seen to be encompassed by an artificial autumn fog, while the interior is flawless, beautifully decorated and not to mention impeccably clean, almost as though it had never actually been lived in. I couldn’t help but feel this was an intentional direction by Taylor, which alludes to the fact that the residents of Beckett Street may be just as fake as the houses themselves.

To say Rachel’s life is a mess would perhaps be an understatement. As a divorced, barren and unemployed woman she hasn’t really got much going for her.

Oh, and did I mention she is a raging alcoholic?

Each day she rides the train – all the while sipping on a plastic water bottle filled with clear alcoholic liquid – which she knows will take her past Beckett Street and past her ex husband, Tom’s, (Justin Theroux) home. He now lives there with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and bouncing baby girl, a constant reminder of her inability to produce a child of her own. Looking out from the train window she is able to catch a glimpse of the life she used to have, the home where she used to live and just for a second bring herself back to the girl she once was.

She uses her time on the train as a form of escapism, using the world around her to distract from her own painful life. She becomes particularly infatuated by a couple that she sees from the train window each day, as it comes to a stop directly outside their home. To Rachel this anonymous couple are everything her and Tom once were – young, attractive and in love. They even seem to pose perfectly whenever Rachel’s train passes, as though they know someone is watching. However, we discover that this couple are in fact Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) and they may not be as perfect as they seem.

One day as her train comes to a stop in its usual place, right outside Megan and Scott’s house, she is witness to something that will change her life forever and pull her back into Beckett Street to uncover secrets about her own past.

Despite being a core witness of the case, Rachel’s alcoholism prevents her from remembering everything, creating the omission of vital pieces of evidence.

girl-on-trainAlthough there are aspects to, ‘The Girl On the Train’ which failed to meet the standard that the book set, there is one shining star who did not disappoint. Emily Blunts portrayal of Rachel was undoubtedly the best thing about the movie. Despite the heavily unrealistic feel of the film, her character was extremely and consistently real. I believed every tear, every lost gaze and each trembled word.

This is a somewhat new role for Blunt, as she plays an incredibly vulnerable and psychologically damaged character. Although Rachel is the main protagonist of the film she is undoubtedly the underdog, for whom we are constantly rooting to uncover the mysteries surrounding her life.

In short, this is a complex and important story which at first appears to be a simple crime thriller with a sexy twist. However, on closer observation it is a unique story, one which, at its core, deals with the severe mental abuse of women by their male counterparts.

Although ‘The Girl on the Train’ may not have entirely lived up to the original book, it is a story which I feel needs to be told to a wider audience. And with an all-star cast and truly captivating story line, it is not a film to be missed this autumn!

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