Directed by Tate Taylor
The film begins almost as if it is a clinical study into depression and grief, as we meet Rachel who commutes via train every day, and each time she cannot help but cause herself pain; when she peers out, what she sees is a perfect couple. She does not know them at all, but to her they are the embodiment of love, something she is convinced she will never feel again.
Drawing her attention to the area is the fact that she used to live two doors down. It comes as no surprise then when Rachel can’t help but look two doors down, where her now ex-husband and his new wife and child reside. The situation has driven Rachel deep into depression; we find out that she drank before she was divorced, but this drinking has obviously increased after she split with her fiancée, and this is made clear by a terrific lead performance by Emily Blunt.
The tale becomes a murder-mystery when Rachel sees Anna – one half of her perfect couple fantasy – ruin that fantasy by (rather stupidly) kissing another man on the front balcony of her house. This sends Rachel into a panic and soon enough, she can’t help but get herself involved, despite having a questionable past with her ex and his new partner two doors down, while not knowing Anna or her husband Scott at all.
What we learn paints a difficult portrait of Rachel, and at times it is hard to feel sorry for her, but depression and addiction are very real, very serious concerns and Rachel is suffering from both. While the other characters may lack depth, we slowly learn more about Rachel and her past, creating a very interesting character – one that I am still thinking about days later.
Her interference into the matters of the seemingly perfect marriage kicks off an investigation, as it turns out that Anne is missing, and Rachel’s visit to the house leads to Anne’s husband becoming a suspect, not to mention herself. Since she experiences blackouts when drinking, she cannot account for her own whereabouts at the time Anna went missing. She often has to be told what she did the night before; a feeling I know far too well.
While not an immensely entertaining film, this feels like another flick where I can’t help but feel that some critics harbour a dislike for a film before they have even watched them. Perhaps it doesn’t live up to the book? Personally, I had no expectations and while the film didn’t blow me away, a score of under 50% on RT is absurd.
Because this film deals with domestic abuse within relationships that seem pristine from the outside, as well as depression and addiction. It isn’t as witty or as venomous as something like Gone Girl, but it has variety, depth, and it delves into the nastiness of domestic violence far deeper, which is a world that is much, much, much bigger than some people realise.
Unfortunately, the screenplay here is a little clunky. We spring back and forth from the present to six months ago, to two months ago, to last Friday (the night Anna went missing), and each time the flashback section isn’t clearly separated from the present, making it hard to know where we are within the chronology of the film. Are we still two months back, or are we back in the present?? It can be hard to tell at times.
Additionally, some events are revisited later from a different angle, completely unnecessarily as they only serve to serve the viewer more information, making sure that they know exactly what happened. It feels a little condescending; we aren’t that stupid, leave some of it to the imagination, eh??
I did find the final act to be quite tense as I don’t tend to try and guess ‘whodunnit’, I just like to sit back and enjoy the film without over-thinking the plot too much. But after having seen this once, I can’t imagine I’d experience the same feeling of tension on a second viewing, especially considering how much information is force-fed to the viewer.
As for people who do like to try and figure it all out, it isn’t exactly out of left field, though I still maintain that some of the final scenes are quite powerful, making some poignant comments on the treatment of alcoholics/drug-addicts as well as often-unseen domestic violence, which comes in many forms, not only physical harm.
While it certainly starts slow, The Girl On The Train, despite the silly title, is more than a simple and tidy ‘whodunnit’ flick. Perhaps the negative reception is due to the fact that the film can feel a little depressing at times, but guess what Jack?
Life is depressing. Deal with it.
What the film really shows is how a small set-back can ruin a person’s life if they aren’t emotionally and/or mentally well, as Rachel desperately, and irrationally, wants to solve the case herself while simultaneously trying to put together her string of blackouts. It isn’t truly entertaining until the last act, but it certainly gets you thinking.
This adaptation of a best-selling book has much to offer, dabbling in two areas that aren’t flashy but are rooted in reality; domestic violence and alcoholism. The way it explores this story though isn’t very smooth, especially regarding the flashbacks. It does however possess this simple yet gritty story (whose rights were bought before the book was even released!) and while it may not be delivered in the most thrilling way, the film says many things while offering an interesting murder-mystery scenario.
This is a multi-faceted film. Bugger the critics.
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