The Girl on the Train is based on the best-selling book by Paula Hawkins and although I hadn’t read it, in the past I’ve always tried to read up before watching film adaptations, I had a feeling that we’d get something in the vein of Gone Girl, mainly because of how it had been sold and stylistically marketed but the film definitely finds strengths.
The film is set around Rachel Watson, played by Emily Blunt, who we first meet travelling on a train, seemingly not quite ‘there’ and watching other people’s lives through the train window of her daily commute. As she drifts by the houses she looks into, she makes up stories about who they are and what kind of relationships they have but this isn’t a simple fantasy, Rachel is infatuated with them, as if she was part of it herself.
On her journey, there’s one particular house and balcony she fixates on and soon believes a beautiful couple she sees everyday have the perfect relationship. After making up their so-called flawless life, the story takes its first twist because one day she sees something that doesn’t fit the picture-perfect persona she’s built up in her mind, and Rachel wants to investigate further. Her obsession isn’t helped by the fact she’s an alcoholic and her state of mind is only fuelled by the drinking.
Even in the early stages of The Girl on the Train, mainly because of an utterly believable performance from Blunt, is how you question whether you’re seeing reality or just her selective memory. On the build up to Rachel drunkenly deciding to investigate further, she grows more and more intense, passionate and unstable about why the woman would want to cheat on her husband. Here we see Emily Blunt in absolute full force because while inebriated, she chooses to go out to the house she’s been watching and confront the issue but an incident in a tunnel occurs, she blacks out, and next we wake up with her back at her house, half covered in blood and dirt, not knowing what happened.
From here things unfold and Rachel becomes embroiled in a whole sequence of unravelling events, each connected, all relevant and constantly asking the audience ‘is what we’re seeing all as it seems?’ whilst still not giving anything away. For me there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned thriller but some in recent years don’t have the same pay off but thankfully, for me, this one definitely does.
Emily Blunt is a powerhouse (and fully deserving of her BAFTA Best Actress nomination) and she truly lifts the tension to another level. Not only a struggling alcoholic but she’s also fighting to find repressed memories and is trying to make sense of the past few years of her life. Close-up sequences focus us into her life as she monologues magnificently with complete and utter abandon, you can only believe her character and throughout you can’t quite work out if she’s the crazy one, or there really is something going on around her.
Although this is the Blunt show, her co-starring cast all bring mystery and intrigue throughout and no-one more so than her co-star leading lady Megan (Haley Bennett), who’s surrounded in mystery and lost in a world with secrets to be revealed. There are also important co-starring roles for Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, and Edgar Ramírez, alongside the excellent Allison Janney as a detective and a specific cameo from Lisa Kudrow.
Not only is The Girl on the Train an exciting thriller it also raised questions and offered insight on perception; on what we think we see and what is real for those in their lives around us. When you think about the people we work with, or the ones we see regularly, they might have a life that we’ve made up for them but isn’t really who they are, just made up from the snippets of their personalities that we witness every day.
From Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay, Director Taylor Tate keeps the tension taut right up to an intense finale and really offers up a satisfying conclusion to an impressively told story.