By Kevin Sninsky
Among the films to hit theaters this past week was “The Girl on the Train.” A dark and intriguing murder-mystery/thriller, this film is an adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s novel by the same name and the latest from director Tate Taylor (The Help.)
“The Girl on the Train” follows Rachel (Emily Blunt) as she struggles with life after divorce. Drunken Rachel sullenly rides the New York railway to and from the city, sneaking sips of vodka on the way to numb the pain and calm her shakes.
With each trip to nowhere, Rachel passes through the neighborhood she once called home. She grows an attachment – from afar – to the loving couple living across from the train stop and lives vicariously through the young wife, Megan (Haley Bennett,) longing to place herself into their seemingly perfect life. This is Rachel’s attempt to distract her eyes from her house and the now home of her ex-husband and his new family, which is conveniently located right next door.
When Megan goes missing, Rachel takes it upon herself to aid in the investigation. But with her daily blackouts creating gaps in her memory, Rachel could have more to do with this disappearance than she remembers.
As the audience follows Rachel on her quest for answers, scenes from Meghan’s past interrupt the main plot, slowly revealing clues to her disappearance. It is this fluctuating timeline, along with Rachel’s own distorted memories, that keeps the audience guessing.
While the mystery is not the most convoluted—audience members may be able to piece things together before the last 40 minutes roll—it is the stylistic choices within the film that ad to its overall success. Scenes either take place at night, enhancing the dark tone of the movie, or play out in settings shrouded in a fog not unlike the haze that seems to cloud Rachel’s mind for most of the movie.
Paul Heath of The Hollywood News praises the film for these conventions. He said, “Director Tate Taylor uses strong visuals and excellent editing techniques to bring a well-known story to the screen.”
Along with these strong visuals, “The Girl on the Train” features excellent performances from its entire cast. It is Blunt’s desperate and derailed Rachel who truly stands out in this movie. However, Mark Kermode of “The Guardian” goes as far as to claim it is Blunt’s work in the film that carries the entire movie. “The whole movie rests upon the shoulders of Emily Blunt, and she holds it all together brilliantly, even as her character is falling apart,” says Kermode.
Whether you were a fan of the book, or new to the story entirely, as I was, “The Girl on the Train” is both engaging and beautiful.