The Girl on The Train

The Girl on the Train. 2016. Directed by Tate Taylor. With Emily Blunt.

Based on the book by Paula Hawkins, the film is a tight, focused thriller. In one hand it holds great sorrow, in the other a great evil.

The great sorrow is that Rachel (Emily Blunt) has lost all hope of ever gaining what she desires. Her (apparent) infertility has led to depression which led to alcoholism which led to the ruin of her marriage and her friendships. She lives in black despair, but for one symbolic candle. Each day she rides the train, commuting to and from Manhattan. Her light is the love shared by a young couple who live beside the tracks. Rachel obsessively spies on them as she passes, morning and night, watching them twenty seconds at a time, hoping to glimpse their happiness on their terrace, or through the plate glass windows. One morning she sees the woman with another man and it destroys Rachel. She spends the day getting roaring drunk, then gets off the evening train to confront the woman for snuffing that last candle.

Rachel wakes with no memory of that night and soon finds herself a witness and a suspect in a subsequent murder investigation. The depths of her sorrow are fully plumbed, as are the secrets she’s been concealing. As her memories return in fragments the film begins to tilt toward the build and reveal of the great evil – but that would be telling.

Some people I know found the film “hard to follow”. I think that is the dramatic function of the film – that we are forced to share Rachel’s experience of disorientation. She is finding it hard to follow. Lean in and go with it – because she finds her way to a full understanding at just the right time.

Emily Blunt, has often been cast as a disciplined, emotionally reserved character (Sicario; Live, Die, Repeat) but here she is uninhibited misery, and flows like water between rage and shame. The director’s use of close ups help deepen the emotional connection and showcase Blunt’s excellent performance.