The Girl on the Train film review: Emily Blunt shines as gritty obsessive in psychological thriller

Posted on 18 October 2016
By Lucy Nowak
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Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, The Girl on the Train is certainly not for the faint hearted or for die hard fans.

The psychological thriller full of strong language, sex and violence follows the daily commute of self-destructive divorcee Rachel.

We soon learn she is obsessed with a pair of houses bordering a railway line and Rachel fantasises about one of the residents and her husband.

In Rachel’s imagination, they were the perfect couple. And now, Rachel is one of the last to have seen Megan – but she can’t remember where she was or what she was doing when Megan went missing.

Quite often the film is very confusing for viewers, with a fragmented narrative, which jumps back and forth with Rachel’s thoughts. This also echoes Rachel’s alcoholic behavior.

We later find out Rachel once lived in this neighbourhood, and the blanks are slowly filled in through a series of flashbacks, confrontations and plot twists.

Despite their luxurious houses, big cars and stunningly good looks, it becomes clear that their lives are far from perfect and they all have troubles plaguing both their past and present.

Emily Blunt has been praised for her portrayal of the broken and self-destructive Rachel. The decision to keep her British accent makes Blunt’s disheveled character even more of an outsider in this scary, drunkenly blurred world set in the suburbs of New York City.

The film was eagerly anticipated by the novel’s devoted fans, although as a result of the changes made from book to film has created a backlash.

Instead of taking place in the drab suburbs of London, the film takes place in the slightly glossier suburbs of New York — a decision that was made for thematic reasons as explained by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson.

Wilson says that the film was always intended as an American film, and keeping it in Britain was “not even on the table.” Wilson further believes that the different attitudes about drinking in the two countries has added another dimension to Rachel’s alcoholism. “It’s much more of a drinking culture [in England],” Wilson says. “It’s not as shameful as it is here… In America, [drinking at bars] is all about going into a dark hole where nobody can see you do a bad thing.”

Inspired by Hawkins’ own commute to work, she has commented on the change of location saying “I’m not really concerned about the repositioning as I think it is the type of story that could take place in any commuter town.”

But many fans describe the change of location as ‘annoying’ and are disappointed as they feel it changes the authenticity of the film, and therefore maintain the belief that the book is still better, a common opinion in itself.

Drinking is certainly not glamourized in the film, and making the plot a little hard to follow the story is largely told through alcoholic Rachel’s unreliable perspective, as well as that of Megan and Anna, the women Rachel fantasizes about daily.

There is nothing but pity felt for Rachel as from the outside we see her heartache at being left with nothing, emphasised through the venom in her speech, ‘That bitch is living in my house’, together with the repetition of ‘I’m not the girl I used to be’ circling the narrative.

With its all-star cast, The Girl on the Train’s tense and twisting storyline will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

The Girl on the Train
Certificate: 15
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson
Running Time: 112 minutes
Rating: ***