The Girl on the Train is going to be one of those films that is hard to review without giving away spoilers. In that respect, please excuse if this review comes across as basic. I have your best interest at heart.
This is an interesting character driven film based on the runaway bestseller by Paula Hawkins of the same name. Our protagonist is Rachel Watson, who is played by one of my favorite actresses right now, Emily Blunt. Rachel is a sad, lonely, and weak character. She’s an alcoholic who rides the train to and from work. While on the train, she spies on a couple that seem to be the perfect couple, the Hipwells. Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett) are always seen in provocative (very provocative) exchanges on their balcony which faces the train tracks. It leads Rachel to come to her conclusion that their marriage is perfect. That they have so much love for each other. But, of course, looks are deceiving and we come to understand that this perfect marriage is anything but.
Meanwhile, Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) has found himself a new wife in Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Anna has grown fearful for her daughter’s safety when after a night of drinking, Rachel ended up with Anna’s daughter on their back yard. There are also hundreds of calls and text messages coming from her husband’s phone who she believes are from Rachel. Tom tries to downplay the calls and the texts as Rachel is just a lonely, sad person who is no threat to anyone else.
There is one key element that ties all three of these characters together: having a baby. Rachel and Tom’s marriage ended when Rachel turned to drinking when she found out she couldn’t get pregnant and IVF didn’t work. Scott desperately wants a child with Megan, so he is constantly in her pants everywhere she goes. Tom and Anna have what Rachel wanted and that was they do have a child. Then, one night, while walking home Megan goes missing and Rachel was at the scene, but is knocked out cold…
Okay, that is as far as I’m willing to go with this review in fear of giving out spoilers. The rest of the movie involves Rachel trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Megan. One of the subplots that works well in the film, and I’m sure much more so in the novel, is that Rachel is a drunk. She openly admits that her ex-husband would have to tell her what happened when she loses control with the alcohol. She’s not a reliable narrator or protagonist.
One of the things that I took issue with the film, though, is that it is obviously trying to be the next Gone Girl and even the film itself mirrored it in look and tone. Anybody who knows me knows how much I hated the former. I will have to post a rant of that film here in the near future! The thing I hated about that film that snuck it’s way into this one is that none of the characters are likeable. It is one thing that have flawed main characters, that’s awesome, but to go to the extreme of having just pitiful, selfish, pathetic characters and nothing but just…I don’t know. I like to believe in the human condition that there is good in this world and if this is the future of novel writing and filmmaking…I don’t know. This is a very dark and very cold film.
Negatives aside, this was an engrossing film nonetheless. As mentioned before, Rachel is not someone you can rely upon to tell you what has happened, as she has blank spots in her own memory. The storyline twists and turns its way to an unexpected conclusion that I didn’t see coming. What I appreciated about the twists and turns is that they are foreshadowed, but, just like The Sixth Sense, the twists are hiding in plain sight. That is what makes a good plot twist. Not some crap that a lot of lesser writers and filmmakers go for where they have a twist just to have one and it makes no sense and it’s cheap. I appreciated how shrewd the treatment of the twists were.
Overall, while this is a very cold film, it is still entertaining enough not to be a total bust and if you like a twisty plot, this will be right up your alley. Emily Blunt also gives an outstanding performance.