FILM REVIEW: The Girl On The Train

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or two, you’ll be aware of the Paula Hawkins novel, The Girl on the Train, (TGOTT). 

Inevitably, as with most best sellers, there was always going to be a film adaptation, and that particular honour has on this occasion gone to Director, Tate Taylor, who has adapted Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay for the big screen.

For those not familiar with the story: Rachel (Emily Blunt – more about her later), a lady deeply affected by post-divorce turmoil – to the point of having taken heavily to the bottle – catches the train to work each day and in doing so, passes her old home in which her ex-husband still lives, along with his new wife and baby. This is understandably a source of great daily pain and anguish for Rachel, and as a result, she has come to fixate instead upon another property, a few doors along, in which the ‘perfect’ couple reside.

This couple, Megan Hipwell (Hayley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), live a demonstrably idyllic, loving life – very much on show for anyone on Rachel’s train that would care to glance in their direction. Rachel is only too happy to oblige.

On one particular day, however, as she passes, she spots something at the couple’s house that shatters her blissful illusion of their union, generating a deep anger within her. The following day she awakens to find herself bloodied and bruised and with no recollection of what happened the day before. More concerningly though, Rachel has suddenly become a chief suspect in Megan’s sudden, mysterious disappearance.

The film then strategically pieces together the back story that has led up to this point in time, through examining the lives and actions of the film’s key characters, whilst the actual events of the ‘forgotten’ day are gradually spoon-fed throughout, using a sequence of hazy, drunken flashbacks of Rachel’s gradually recalled, half-remembered memories.

Indeed, it’s Rachel (and Emily Blunt’s superlative portrayal of her, to be more precise), that steals the show here. Blunt has successfully achieved that most illusive of goals – a convincing portrayal of a drunk.

No hip flask-waving, overly-slurred speech or swivel-eyed exaggerated staggering, here. Blunt’s is a far more nuanced performance, successfully conveying both the desperation and shame that it’s very clear she experiences daily, as she ‘manfully’ attempts to keep life and soul together, under the most crushing of personal circumstances.

Indeed, the performances in general are all solid and emotionally engaging to a point. In addition, it’s a film that possesses just the right kind of momentum at the right sort of times. It’s all beautifully shot and edited and it’s well pieced together – for what it is – with a lavish Danny Elfman score to boot, providing considerable sonic varnish.

It’s indisputable therefore that there are a whole host of key ingredients in place to provide a winning formula here, which makes it all the more baffling as to why TGOTT feels less like the epic cinematic event that it’s meant to be, and rather more like a high-budget, made for TV movie.

Certainly, if I’d watched this instead on a 40 inch, flat-screen television, in my living room, I’d not be overly concerned at having missed out on anything that the big screen experience could have had to offer.

I have my suspicions, but, in all honesty I’m still at a loss as to why this should be.

It’s a hard one to put your finger on…

Perhaps it’s the predictability of the film’s final act which feels like a bit of a cop out after what has preceeded it? Possibly the tension is simply not ramped-up sufficiently in the closing stages, rendering the film’s overall impact less than it might have been? Or maybe, the whole thing, no matter how well acted and technically proficient it may well be, just leaves the residual impression of having been both lightweight and glossy – like a bit of holiday reading that one can dip in and out of, at will, in between swimming lengths of the beach resort’s pool?

In fact, it’s probably fair to assume that The Girl on the Train has been a rather well thumbed-through, ubiquitous presence within many a resort, along the many coasts of the Mediterranean and beyond, this summer.

Then again, it’s perfectly conceivable that that’s a harsh and unfair summary.

I’m torn, so you really will have to see for yourselves.

One man’s trash is, after all, another man’s treasure – or some other such nonsense.

 

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