The Girl on the Train (2016)

The Girl on the Train
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
Based on: Paula Hawkinsnovel
Cast: Emily BluntHaley BennettRebecca FergusonJustin TherouxLuke EvansEdgar RamírezAllison JanneyLisa Kudrow
Seen on: 3.11.2016

Rachel (Emily Blunt) takes the same train to work every day. And every day she sees Megan (Haley Bennett) who lives a few houses down from the one Rachel used to live with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux). Tom left her for Anne (Rebecca Ferguson) and they still live in that house with their new baby. Rachel becomes rather obsessed with Megan, catching three seconds of her life every day. And then she hears that Megan went missing. Rachel wants to help, but she is also worried about herself because she lost the memory of the night Megan went missing and just knows that she woke up dirty and with blood on her hands.

The Girl on the Train tries very much to hit the same lane as Gone Girl but fundamentally misunderstands what made Gone Girl so great. It was a frustrating experience.

[SPOILERS for The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl]

The Girl on the Train has a strong cast, above all Emily Blunt who plays her heart out, and the premise for its story wasn’t bad. Rachel, not knowing herself whether she can be trusted or not, becomes the ultimate unreliable narrator. Only the film never really managed to cast any doubt on her as a person. As a watcher of the film, I never really had any doubt that she would be cleared of all suspicion.

That we are dealing with a female character who can’t be trusted in an apparently perfect suburban setting is probably what sparked all the comparison with Gone Girl (apart from the fact that Girl on the Train borrows heavily from the look of Gone Girl). But with one crucial difference: Gone Girl is so fantastic, because its protagonist is in absolute control, always. She is a villain who does all the things women are usually accused of doing (like invent abuse and rape to spite men) and gets away with it.

Rachel in this film has absolutely no control over her life or her story. And as the film reveals that she was abused by Tom, as were Anne and Megan, the story does show the fundamentals of gaslighting to great effect, but it also turns all three women into victims and all the men in the story into abusers – because not only Tom, also Megan’s husband (Luke Evans) and her therapist (Édgar Ramírez) are abusive. Hoofuckingray, how empowering.

And it wasn’t just that the film was a mess that took agency from all women (Rachel gets to keep a little as she tries to piece together what happened), it simply couldn’t manage to keep up the tension and I would say that a good half hour of it could have probably been cut. Maybe then it wouldn’t have been such a frustrating experience.

Summarizing: Watch Gone Girl (again) instead.

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