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USA 2016
Directed by
Tate Taylor
112 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Girl On The Train, The

Synopsis: Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) catches daily glimpses of a couple, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett), from the window of her train. When Megan goes missing Rachel believes she has information vital to the case but with a serious drinking problem and a history of personal issues it is unclear how much she is imagining. Indeed, she might even be responsible for Megan's disappearance.

Had this film been made 40 years ago it would have raised considerable debate about its feminist bona fides. On the one hand it foregrounds a trio of female characters, on the other its makes them all victims in one way or another of their biology. These days such things pass uncommented upon and the film has largely been assessed on its merits as a thriller and found wanting particularly in comparison to David Fincher's 2014 hit, Gone Girl to which it bears a good deal of stylistic resemblance. This is unfortunate as whilst low-key as a thriller and admittedly awkward structurally it provides an engaging story with well-articulated characters and features a winning performance by Emily Blunt. The interest is less in the whodunnit aspect than in Rachel's mental state which is seriously compromised, even, if not especially, in her own estimation.

Adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson from Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train does not have the big budget slickness of the Fincher film but it engages as a character study with Blunt and Taylor giving us a protagonist who is clearly unstable and yet has a vulnerability that earns our sympathy.

The film does cheat somewhat in this respect, switching between scenes which represent Rachel's alcohol-clouded point of view and later a “corrected” story-teller's account of them.  As with all thrillers there are plot-enabling contrivances (mainly the way in which Rachel's train conveniently slows down to let  her observe the story's other characters who happen to be disporting themselves in view just at that moment) and Edgar Ramirez is implausibly good-looking for the unconvincing role of a psychologist (on the other hand Lisa Kudrow makes a small but welcome appearance in a pivotal role). The film's biggest failings, however, are with its over-familiar resolution and an epilogue that, in typical American fashion, tells us what we have already concluded quite independently of it.

Whilst this lack of courage is a disappointment and despite the criticisms that can justly be levelled at it, The Girl On The Train provides solid old school picture show entertainment and deserves a better reception than it has earned in its homeland.




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