Review: The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train is near to being the perfect modern thriller. Whilst slow to get going, this gripping thriller delivers the twists and turns that the likes of Gone Girl could only dream of. The film, like the novel it’s based on, is seen from the perspective of three women – Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee who has a strange fixation with a couple she sees every day on her commute; Megan (Haley Bennett), the wife in this couple; and Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), Megan’s employer and neighbour, married to Rachel’s ex-husband. When Megan goes mysteriously missing shortly after Rachel sees her cheating on her husband, Rachel and Anna’s lives are thrown into a state of confusion and mistrust.
Emily Blunt does her best with the opening narration but it goes on for too long, trying too hard to be “deep” and leaving you fearing you’re in for a 2 hour pretentious bore. Fortunately that’s the worst that can be said about her performance. She truly shines in this role, playing Rachel’s delusion in a way that is tragic but ultimately something you almost route for. In spite of her clearly unhealthy obsession, seeing the majority of the story from her point of view really makes it seem reasonable. Very few could have performed this role as well as Blunt.
Meanwhile, Anna, whose concern about Rachel’s neurotic behaviour would normally be justified, comes across as needy, bordering on irritating. For the most part, Rebecca Ferguson’s calm, cool performance keeps the viewer unsympathetic – yet this really works in the film’s favour. While we’re aware of her struggle, being largely apathetic to it provides the film with an intelligent sense of moral ambiguity.
Third in our line-up of leads is Haley Bennett as Megan. She’s undoubtedly the weaker of the trio but she still gives a solid performance. Given that she’s missing for the majority of the film, we mainly see her story through flashbacks. Like Ferguson, she’s more subtle than Blunt but plays the few emotional breakdowns required of her adequately.
However one of the film’s main issues is in the lack of enjoyable supporting characters. All of them are either unpleasant or underdeveloped, the latter especially being the case with Megan’s therapist, played by Edgar Ramirez. Ramirez is very interesting to watch, but there’s just not enough of him. With that being said, seeing Allison Janney, a typically comical actress, play a no nonsense detective was a very pleasant surprise.
But how the characters are shaped in this film does not solely rely on the cast. How the film frames the duel perspectives is nothing short of brilliant, one of the best examples seen early on in the film. We learn that Scott, Megan’s husband, is possessive and emotionally abusive. But when he converses with Rachel, he appears to be a kind, concerned husband. It makes you unsure what to think of him because despite seeing the same man on screen, it’s almost as if we’re seeing him through different eyes each time and as far as I’m concerned, this all comes down to the writing. There’s a recurring aspect in the scenes centred on Rachel where some dialogue is oddly repeated. Lines like “she was kissing him; they were kissing” made me wonder if this somehow related to Rachel’s alcoholic state. The cinematography certainly ascribes to this idea, showing the scenes in a slick and clear way when Rachel is narrating before becoming grittier when she interacts with a woman and her baby, it becoming apparent she is intoxicated.
Some minor aspects keep this film from being perfect, one being the unnecessary change to a New York setting as opposed to the original London setting; but they don’t disrupt from the film overall. Whether you see it while it’s still in the cinema or wait for the DVD, this is a film you don’t want to miss. I’m off to pick up the book right now.