Film review: The Girl on the Train

by **


Inside The Girl on the Train, a taut psychological thriller involving homicide and alcoholism, is an excruciating drama in which the lives of three women are strung together in a singular experience, their desires and memories and hopes interwoven into a tapestry of indignation and strength.

Much of the precision is etched on the eloquent face of Emily Blunt who plays Rachel, 30-something, unable to control her drinking, and struggling, when we meet her, with a marital break-up.

Despite having lost her job, Rachel commutes each day to the city on a train that passes by a leafy suburb. Every day she rides on that train; and every day she finds herself observing a woman on a balcony facing the railway track. Together with the man of the house, they represent to Rachel “the embodiment of true love”.

Thing is, Rachel used to live two blocks away in a property where her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), is now raising a family with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).

Bruised still by the betrayal she suffered, Rachel is not only bitter but painfully self-righteous about conjugal fidelity. So, when she spies the object of her daily fixation kissing another lover on the porch, the inebriated loner decides to take it upon herself to right a potential wrong.

The next day a female resident of the area — Rachel learns that her name is Megan (Haley Bennett) — is reported to be missing. And soon, Megan’s half-decomposed body is found buried in the woods.

Based on a wildly popular novel by Paula Hawkins the film moves back and forth through different time-frames (six months ago, today, last Friday, one week ago, etc.) and dwells by turns upon the various perspectives of our three heroines.

Waking from a black-out with a bloodied temple in her bathroom, Rachel is nearly oblivious to what had transpired. She introduces herself to Megan’s husband, Scott (Luke Evans), with whom attempts are made to incriminate the paramour, Dr Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), Megan’s psychotherapist — and her newest passion, or distraction. Meanwhile, living under a pall of unsolved crime, all the time trying to protect herself and her baby from what she perceives as constant harassment by Rachel, Anna becomes suspicious of Tom’s efforts to defend his former wife.

In a performance luminous against the complex web of suspense and intrigue, Blunt lets Rachel’s bewilderment and emptiness echo out of hollow eyes ringed in shadows of smudged mascara. Her wan complexion and crusty lips locate the self-doubt that grips one’s consciousness in the aftermath of a booze-infused episode.

Towards the end of the film, from Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay, directed by Tate Taylor, we are reminded of the ease with which manipulation could make its way through the sodden flesh of vulnerability.

But above all, The Girl on the Train, gives voice arguably to the often-unheard and presents it in the threads of a gauzy and radiant cinematic fabric.

“I am not the girl I used to be, ” thinks Rachel to herself at the movie’s close, and that same line has a significantly different meaning from when it was voiced-over at the picture’s start.