The Independent London Newspaper


FILM: Girl on the Train thriller fails to play it by the book

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Emily Blunt as the troubled Rachel in The Girl On The Train

Emily Blunt as the troubled Rachel in The Girl On The Train

Published: 7 October, 2016

The Girl on the Train

Directed by Tate Taylor
Certificate 15

DRESSED in a power suit, writing in a notebook, sipping from one of those pricey water bottles that people take to the gym, on the face of it Rachel looks like any other commuter whizzing from the New York ’burbs to a well-paid job in Manhattan each day.

But we quickly learn Rachel (Emily Blunt) is not quite what she appears to be. 

She stares out of the window, but not absentmindedly: she is waiting to spy on a particular set of houses en route, helped by the fact her ride stops every morning at a points junction, allowing her to become something of a voyeur. 

We discover in dribs and drabs why the stretch of homes she spies on are of particular interest. 

She gazes longingly at the home of perfect Megan (Haley Bennett), and her seemingly spotless world. Two doors down, we learn, is Rachel’s old house. She lived there with her now-ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), who has moved in with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the woman he left her for.

Slowly a picture emerges of Rachel’s life: she is an alcoholic, and the water bottle she carries about with her is full of vodka. She is at rock bottom, inhabiting a twilight world of tears, fury and memory blackouts. 

Then, one day, she spots something in Megan’s back garden that kickstarts a mystery that Rachel’s booze-soaked brain struggles to comprehend as she tries to unpick what has happened to her, and whether she has any direct responsib­ility for a shocking event that she feels intrinsically linked to, but isn’t quite sure why.

This film feels like it falls between two stools. On the one hand, it could be a deep story about alcoholism, about societal pressure on women in their 30s to have children and the effect this pressure to adhere to a status quo has on mental health. It could be about psychological domestic abuse. Alternatively, it could be a straightforward thriller, a whodunit drawing inspiration from the likes of Rear Window or Fatal Attraction.

Instead we get neither: Blunt’s performance works well, but as she sobers up and begins to consider what has happened, the need for Miss Marple lessens to a degree that makes this a case any jury would take less than five minutes to point the finger in the correct direction. 

Author Paula Hawkins’ novel has so far sold more than 15 million copies. 

One suspects there will be 15 million Hawkins fans who don’t enjoy this cinematic adaptation as much as they did the book. 



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