There seems to be a worrying thread in adaptations of books set in the UK suddenly transplanted to the US. While fans of the book of The Girl on the Train will for obvious reasons get disillusioned by such a major change to the source material. Arguably, this change of setting is Tate Taylor’s film’s greatest strength. Yes Manhattan is just a smidge out of the way from Ashbury in Buckinghamshire but Rachael being able to look out from a cold, unforgiving concrete jungle into an almost idyllic suburban paradise that really underlines her loneliness and how she’d be able to zero in on one house, in particular, to use as an outline for her fantasies, which seems altogether more grand than the source material.
The titular “Girl on a Train” Rachel (Blunt), is at total rock bottom when we first see her staring out of a train window staring and focusing on a woman she doesn’t even know. Megan (Haley Bennett), a beautiful seemingly carefree blond standing in her gorgeous house who looks like she has everything Rachel has lost. Once upon a time blissfully married to Tom (Justin Theroux), but after she found out that she couldn’t have children. she turned alcohol for comfort which we see over a series of flashbacks leads to Tom leaving Rachael sending her spiralling down into alcoholism.
Rachel has no clue of course that she has any connection to Megan, but boy does she ever! Megan works for Anna, the woman that stole Tom from Rachel stealing her life and sending her down a hole of self-hatred. Eventually, all these elements will eventually all come together in one massive explosion of emotion from Rachel that’ll push her to breaking point as she tries to clear her own name.
A classic thriller/mystery in its set-up, the film also deals with Rachel’s alcoholism as an added side plot. Which director Tate Taylor refuses to pull punches with, putting her damaged mindset and alcoholism to great use, crafting her as an a-typical unreliable narrator with her addiction problems and constant blackouts. Despite this, it’s the tensest parts of the story that let this movie down; the action never really drawing the audience in nor the several twists in the story that most people can see coming a mile away.
At the heart of these issues is Emily Blunt. She does what she can with the role looking like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown in every scene but try as she might she can’t hide the fact that she’s miscast as Rachel. Throughout the movie she’s clearly trying hard to portray herself as this damaged woman, but it’s impossible to separate her character from the actress and see her as anything less than Emily Blunt playing a role. Despite her best efforts, the majority of this movie falls to engross and this movie will be quickly forgotten.
The Girl on the Train is on general release now