The Girl On The Train (2016)
I haven’t read the best-selling novel that this film is based on, so cannot comment on whether or not it is a good adaptation. Despite being nominated for a BAFTA film award, the film received mixed reviews on release, most of which I avoided reading, so I would not see any spoilers. I waited until it was shown on TV to watch it, as is it not one of those films you need to see on a big screen.
The story is set in America, in an affluent area close to New York City. Regular train commuter Rachel, (Emily Blunt) watches the world go by from her train window, focusing on the lives of a few families in one particular street she can see from the tracks. We learn that one of those houses is where she used to live, and is now occupied by her ex-husband Tom, and his new wife and baby. His wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) employs a nanny, Megan, who is also the wife of a near-neighbour. There is some physical similarity between these two women, something which becomes integral to the plot.
Back-stories and flashbacks abound, telling us that Rachel is a bitter alcoholic who is stalking her ex, and experiencing blackouts. Megan’s husband is violent and controlling, and Anna is a lazy mother. The film makes frequent use of captions, such as ‘A week ago’, or ‘Four months earlier’, to do this, so you have to be sure to keep your eyes on the screen at all times, or risk confusion.
Rachel’s constant bothering of Tom’s new family attracts the attentions of the police, and she is warned off by female detective Riley. (Alison Janney) With her drinking getting completely out of control, Rachel begins to alienate everyone around her, including the friend she shares a house with. And the viewer is supposedly left wondering if any of her fears are real, or just drunken fantasies.
Meanwhile, Megan is undergoing therapy, and becoming attracted to her psychiatrist, Dr Abdic. She is hoping to escape her controlling husband by beginning an affair with the doctor, and also resigns as the nanny for Anna’s baby.
Are you with me so far?
So we have a sort-of psychological thriller involving three women who are all connected by the same location, and the relationships they once had, or have now.
Then Megan goes missing, and is feared dead. Rachel becomes a suspect, and Megan’s husband becomes a suspect too.
Then it all gets rather silly, to be honest. Clumsy twists, unbelievable coincidences, clueless cops accepting the obvious, and a drunk woman who seems to be the only one who knows what is actually happening. Secrets are revealed in flashback, and the eventual denouement becomes an ‘Oh really?’ moment.
This film is nowhere near as good as it thinks it is. Usually reliable actors choose hysteria over nuance, and the criss-cross timeline is neither arty, nor well-handled. We have seen many similar films before, and all of them are better than this one.
I can only hope that the book was better.