By Thomas Simpson
The literary world loves a title that start with “The Girl…” and Hollywood is partial to adapting these. Paul Hawkins debut novel The Girl on the Train debuted at number one on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 so it seemed inevitable that we would see it on the big screen before long.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic divorcee who spends her days traveling the same railway line. The route takes her past her old house where she tortures herself by looking at her ex-husband’s life with his new family. Her attention is drawn to her old neighbors, Megan (Haley Bennet) and Scott (Luke Evans), a seemingly happy couple who look very much in love. When Megan goes missing, Rachel finds herself playing detective as she struggles to piece together the strands of information leading to Megan’s disappearance. Unfortunately for Rachel her tendency to blackout and history of harassment also makes her a suspect.
Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay is a tightly wound thriller that slowly peels each layer with methodical precision. There is no rush to reveal anything yet the quick pace of the plot keeps us hooked and avoids being drawn out or bogged down with boring exposition. Most things happen for good reason even if it does seem a little silly in the end.
The slightly disjointed structure allows for flashbacks and repeating of scenes with different results. Director Tate Taylor plays with the imagery that compliments Rachel’s flawed memory to tease us with different outcomes. Many red herrings are thrown our way as Rachel’s unreliable narrator creates incredible tension as it points the finger at half the characters.
Blunt excels as Rachel, a fractured performance that leaves her vulnerable due to her alcoholism, sympathetic due to her history but drawing contempt due to her actions. In many ways she is the bridge between Bennett’s seductive and alluring artist and Rebecca Ferguson’s mundane housewife Anna. Rachel often fantasizes about the lives of others while all three women appear to unwillingly reflect each other’s.
The third act twist is regrettably very predictable and you may have it sussed from the synopsis alone. There are many twists and turns along the way that although the destination is expected, the journey is fun. Blunt is the clear standout but the rest of the cast deliver solid performances that support the script. The resolution isn’t entirely satisfying, however, The Girl on the Train is a suitable date film that will leave you uncomfortable on more than occasion. Better cuddle in close.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.