Movie Reviews

‘The Girl on the Train’ – Damaged Hero or Unreliable Narrator?


The latest movie adaptation of a best-selling page-turner with ‘Girl’ in its’ title (see ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, ‘Gone Girl’), ‘The Girl on the Train,’ provides more than competent acting from its’ players and a compelling enough story to keep an audience rapt.  While it doesn’t quite reach the masterful heights of visual storytelling on display in director David Fincher’s films mentioned above, ‘Train’ director Tate Taylor and star Emily Blunt put together a captivating film centered on some very damaged characters.  Just like Taylor’s Oscar-nominated film, ‘The Help,’ the director gives his actresses the room to fully explore and flesh out the various female characters on screen.

The main players are introduced via title cards and timelines signify a narrative inching its’ way to a present beset by an incident of a missing person.  The titular ‘Girl’ is Blunt’s Rachel, a displaced British commuter riding the Metro-North rail back and forth from Westchester county to Grand Central Station in New York.  Like a modern-day ‘Rear Window’ Rachel develops an unhealthy fixation on the denizens of a house that can be clearly viewed while stopped at Ardsley-on-Hudson – that the house is three down from her former residence she shared with her ex-husband is not a coincidence.  Rachel is a barely-functioning alcoholic, marred by a past incident that left her divorced and lamenting the fact that her ex Tom (Justin Theroux) is now occupying the house they purchased together with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby.  The main object of Rachel’s obsession though is young Meghan (Haley Bennett, currently having a moment in both this film and ‘The Magnificent Seven’) in seemingly idyllic example of a loving relationship with husband Scott (Luke Evans).

Like any good thriller, as the plot thickens, nothing is as what it seems, from the perfect representation of marriage to even Rachel’s reliability as a narrator.  It turns out that the film is more of a female-driven film noir, marked by some of that genre’s very recognizable tropes, with a different and unique spin.  The characters here have been touched by some form of abuse, whether they are self-inflicted or by someone close to them, resulting in a plot driven more by internal motivation and perception as opposed to activity.  While ‘The Girl on the Train’ doesn’t provide a clear character to rally around, it is a competent, if uncomfortable, diversion of a film . . .

Directed By:  Tate Taylor

Written By:  Erin Cressida Wilson

Rated: R

Running Time:  112 min.

* * * (out of 4 stars) – OR – B


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