Saturday, 5 November 2016
Review: The Girl On The Train (UK Cert 15)
An expertly plotted, intricate thriller, The Girl On The Train is based on the best-selling book by Paula Hawkins and directed by Tate Taylor (The Help)
Transplanting the story from London to New York, it follows Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a woman who forms a fascination with a young woman (Haley Bennett) who she sees from the train every day on her way to work. Rachel builds up a perfect fantasy life for the woman. But when the young woman- whose name is Megan- disappears, Rachel becomes embroiled in the mystery. But can we really trust her version of events? Is there more to Megan's disappearance than meets the eye? Could Rachel have had something to do with it?
I'm an absolute sucker for books or films with unreliable narrators- there's something deeply satisfying about a work that can skilfully pull the rug out from under you- and here, we get not one, but three, narrators who aren't telling us everything. As the layers of the story unfold, what we think we know turns out to be wrong. Dead wrong.
There is an absolutely brilliant central performance by Emily Blunt. Rachel is a fascinating, flawed character- the main character, certainly, but definitely no heroine- and Blunt plays it to the hilt with absolutely no shred of ego involved. Rachel looks haggard, eyes sunk, as alcohol and regret make their mark. She is prone to drunken outbursts and blackouts and has a very complicated relationship with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). There's no attempt to soften or mitigate the rough edges of the character. She is presented warts and all, and it's one of Blunt's finest dramatic performances.
Megan is a similarly contradictory character; Rachel's imagined perfect life is very different to her reality. Bennett gets to play many facets to Megan- flirty, vulnerable, brazen, distraught- which all build in to her disappearance. Occasionally, Bennett's performance lapses into cliche but that could be to do with the script. To round out our triumvirate of troubled women, we have Anna. Scared of Rachel and mistrustful of her influence on her ex-husband, all Anna wants is to be left alone to get on with her life. What could have been a stereotypical new-wife-threatened-by-the-old is given nuance by Ferguson's performance and- as the story progresses- we come to realise that perhaps there's more to Anna than meets the eye.
You may think that, being such a female-heavy story, the male characters get short shrift. Not so. Whilst it's true that Luke Evans gets lumbered with little to do other than brood and shout as Megan's husband Scott, the other main male characters- Tom, and Megan's therapist Dr. Abdic (Edgar Ramirez)- are a bit more rounded and each feeds in to the main story. Whilst I have to say I called the twist, it was less to do with any of the performances and more to do with the law of averages.
The Girl On The Train (both the book and the film) have been compared to Gone Girl, and I can see why. There's some similarities- the unreliable narrators, stories told from the female view, moments of shocking violence (although Gone Girl takes the gold on that one)- but this is far from a pale imitation. This isn't a go-in-and-switch-your-brain-off film. It is taxing, especially to keep track of the differing timelines and points of view but if you're in the mood for a dark, psychological, tricksy puzzle-box of a film, this is well worth a go.
Review: 4 out of 5