The Girl of the Train

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Starring: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Rebecca Ferguson, and Haley Bennett. Directed by Tate Taylor. Rated MA 15+. Restricted. (Strong themes and violence). 112min.

 This American psychological thriller is loosely based on the 2015 best-selling novel of the same name by British author, Paula Hawkins. It tells the story of a woman travelling on a train, who sees something out of the train window that shocks her, and becomes involved in what she saw.

 Rachel Watson (Emily blunt) is an unhappy person, who is recovering from a bitter divorce. She is lonely and depressed. She is also an alcoholic and she was married to a husband, who was unfaithful to her. She travels every day to New York City by train, and always looks out of the window of the train, which passes by where she used to live in happier times.

 In her loneliness, she fantasises about the people who now live in her old house. Her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) lives there with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and her child.

 Just a couple of houses down, she sees a seemingly happy couple, Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans). The train regularly slows down as it passes their house, and looking out of the window, she imagines them as the perfect married couple. One day, however, she sees something that disturbs her. It forces her to think that Megan and her husband, Scott, are connected in some way with Rachel's ex-husband, and his new family. The morning after the fateful train trip, she wakes up in bed, bruised, bloodied, and with a hangover. She knows something has happened, but she has no memory of what occurred.

 When the Police arrive to question her, she hears the news that Megan Hipwell has gone missing, and is presumed dead. She tells the Police what she saw from the train, but can't recall for them what she was doing on the night Megan disappeared. The Police know she is an alcoholic and over-involved with a man who has left her, and they leave her to her alcoholic bouts. Rachel becomes obsessed with information she thinks is needed to explain Megan's sudden disappearance, but she knows that her memory blocks make her an unreliable witness.

This movie has a lot of similarity with the film, "Gone Girl" (2014) which deals with suspicions that surround a destructive marriage between two very unhappy people. In "Gone Girl" the main focus was on two people, who were immensely distrustful of each other. Now, there are four, perhaps five, or maybe six, people who connect with each other in strange circumstances. Each is controlling towards the others, and all is not nice among them.

Emily Blunt overplays the role of the neurotic ex-wife, but the character she plays is especially demanding. Rachel struggles with addiction, is depressed, is a stalker, has amnesia, and is catapulted into events which envelop her. She is one of three people (Rachel, Megan, and Anna) who narrate the movie, and this makes the film an interesting one in terms of female, versus male, perceptions of events. The movie is full of surprising twists and turns that effectively hide the villain of the piece, and the device of supplying multiple narratives enhances the psychological impact of the final resolution of what Rachel saw from the train.

The film hold its tension erratically. It is not as tightly constructed as "Gone Girl" and it has multiple melodramatic moments, before the thriller pace takes over halfway through the movie. The main reason for the looseness lies in the film's plot-line. There are too many "persons of interest", who are potentially involved, and the film's Director (Tate Taylor) even flirts for a while with possible villainy of a passenger on the train. But despite its weaknesses, the film entertains by taking flight imaginatively about what could be happening outside the window of a train, on a long journey.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Entertainment One Films

October 6th., 2016

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