Review of The Girl on the Train

Posted: November 19, 2016 in Alcoholism, Film reviews, Sex and lies

This is a taut and edgy murder-mystery which had me fastened to my seat – alternately wincing, furrowing a perplexed brow and blithely speculating – right up until the final ‘Screw you!’ denouement. It’s a whodunnit? of sorts, only for much of the film the chief suspect is our central character, Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), who we’re also supposed to be empathising with. Indeed, Rachel isn’t entirely sure she isn’t responsible, given her alcohol blackouts and feelings of ire towards the, initially missing person, then murder victim. On top of that, she can’t explain the bloodied and bruised state she awakes to one morning. On one level the film works as an engrossing suspense-thriller, but it also addresses and explores themes of alcoholism, trauma and loss, deceit and infidelity. Finally, it’s about redemption and renewal in truth and justice.

Rachel commutes into Manhattan by train, wandering hither and thither like a lost soul – she is – invariably inebriated, and then commuting back to her shared flat in the evening. This has been her life for about one year since she lost her job and her marriage hit the rocks due to her sterility and then husband’s (Tom Watson; Justin Theroux) infidelity. Every day she peers out from the train window – at one house in particular where, in her mind, the ideal couple reside, apparently hopelessly in love. She’s obsessed by the couple because they represent something she thought she had but lost and still yearns for. Until one day, to her dismay, she sees the woman on her balcony apparently in a passionate embrace with another man. This perturbs her greatly, believing that the woman is recklessly destroying a very precious marriage. From here on in, things get very murky and convoluted. It turns out that the woman on the balcony is Megan (Haley Bennett), nanny to Rachel’s divorced husband’s child with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Then, Megan goes missing and suspicion falls on Rachel because she was seen in the vicinity on the night in question. Megan’s husband Scott (Luke Evans) however, is volatile and violent, but has alibis for that night. I could go on, but I’m not going to spoil it for whoever happens to be reading this.

Suffice to say, the plot twists serpentine and turns at perpendicular angles. Rachel’s investigations, motivated by her desire to prove her innocence as well as her personal feelings, and aided in no small measure by the return of veridical memories due to alcohol abstinence, drive tawdry and sinister truths to the surface. I must say, Emily Blunt delivers a mesmeric performance as a pitiable, alcohol-drenched unfortunate. This was a characterisation, along with its contextual narrative lineaments, that was of particular interest to me. I believe that extreme alcoholism as is portrayed here doesn’t just happen because of a faulty gene or some mysterious allergy. Behind the outward manifestations of addiction and irrational and self-destructive behaviour, there is inevitably some unresolved psycho-emotional disturbance. And truth and coming to terms with the truth is always the light at the end of the tunnel.




Stephen J. Oram: 19th November, 2016


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