In 2015, Paula Hawkins thrilled the world with the novel The Girl on the Train. A year later, the popular novel was adapted to film.
The Girl on the Train tells the story of an alcoholic divorcee who attaches herself to a web of mystery after the disappearance of a young housewife. The film stars Emily Blunt in the title role, supported by Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans and newcomer Haley Bennett.
The film opens in a similar fashion to the novel, with Rachel (Emily Blunt) riding the train into the city, glancing out the window at the lives of those around her. With a voiceover narration, Rachel describes her descent into alcoholism after her divorce from husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his marriage with another woman named Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).
The two live next door to a couple, Megan and Scott, played by Haley Bennett and Luke Evans respectively. Instead of London, the film is set in New York City. Though the setting is different from that of the novel, the film immediately captures its original tone. While the opening scene feels a bit slow and eerie, the story picks up quickly with the introduction of Megan and Scott, the seemingly perfect couple Rachel develops an obsession with. As the film reaches its second act, Megan goes missing and the mystery of her disappearance begins.
The film remains mostly faithful to the novel, but it focuses too much of its plot on Rachel’s point of view. Scott is only in a featured in a few scenes, most of which depict him having sex with Megan. His arc is lost in translation, and his character in the film is easily forgettable.
The minor characters were a bit underdeveloped in comparison to Rachel. Haley Bennett, however, proved her worth with a riveting performance of an incredibly troubled young woman. Each scene in which she is featured revealed a new aspect of her personality, and Bennett effortlessly captured Megan’s reluctance to open up about her troubled life, as well as the demons that haunt her.
Emily Blunt’s performance as Rachel was equally as commendable as that of Bennett. She was captivating, dexterously conveying Rachel’s uncomfortability and growing paranoia throughout the film. Her performance, along with Bennett’s, drove the film.
Justin Theroux, like Blunt and Bennett, made a surprisingly impressive performance in a role unlike any other he had before.
Though Rachel is the main character of the story, The Girl on the Train is a bigger portrait of many deeply flawed characters. The novel indeed does a better job at developing the points of view of each character, but the film stands on its own as a suspenseful mystery.
Every character has his or her morality questioned at some point in the film, and they are all suspects in Megan’s case.
The film’s narrative features several flashbacks. Director Tate Taylor’s direction amplified the suspense, and he did well observing the internal emotions of the characters that were so well-described in the novel. Taylor consistently blurred the line between reality and fiction, visually embodying Rachel’s intoxication through blurred, slowed down shots.
As the film’s mystery reached its end, Rachel was on the brink of a complete breakdown. Taylor skillfully showed this in his direction.
Taylor’s use of shots does well to capture the distress of each character as they attempt to piece together the puzzle. The film’s pace is undoubtedly slow, and viewers of the film unfamiliar with the novel may be hesitant to delve completely into the story.
With that being said, Taylor’s direction and the performers did well to make the film stand with the novel as a compelling, slow-burning thriller. The Girl on the Trainfound success in its ability to separate itself from today’s thrillers. Because it relied mostly on the studying of its characters rather than action and a fast pace, it stood out in the crowded genre.
The climax of the film was abrupt and may seem anticlimactic, but it kept with the subtle, bleak tone throughout the film. While The Girl on the Train did not translate from novel to film with perfect ease, Tate Taylor’s keen direction accompanied by wonderful performances by Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, and Justin Theroux made the film worth the watch.