Film Review: The Girl on The Train (2016)

Considering that I am the most critical person ever, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed this film. It went above and beyond my expectations and it’s definitely one that I would say is worth seeing – maybe even buying on DVD too!

For those who don’t know, this is the film version of the Paula Hawkins novel with the same title. We follow the story of Rachel, a divorced alcoholic who has lost her job but still rides the commuter train into the city everyday regardless. Whilst riding the train, she forms a distant attachment to a couple that she watches repeatedly from the window of the train. They live on the same street she used to live on with her ex-husband, before he had an affair, moved in with the other woman and had her baby. Shocking, I know. Rachel envies the fact that they have the life she lost. The seemingly perfect, love filled marriage and a beautiful home to go with it. So when she notices the woman, Megan, kissing another man out in her back garden and then Megan goes missing, Rachel finds herself entangled in a story that she shouldn’t even be a part of.

If you’ve read my review of the book (and if you haven’t, then you can do so here), you’ll know that I really detested it. If I remember correctly, I actually completely battered Paula Hawkins writing of the story. I didn’t feel that it was emotional enough and although the plot was a very interesting one, it just didn’t properly come together for me. The movie however, cemented everything that I wish the novel had.

However, I do just have to mention that the film (unlike the book) is set in America. For me, that did take away a chunk of the authenticity. The train was completely different, as were the houses and the streets that Rachel was peering into. It’s not a major deal, as I still loved the film. But I think that one of the huge appeals of this novel was that British readers could firmly root themselves in where everything was taking place. With the film, it was very different. There was one scene where the train was going by a clear, beautiful lake or river and it was just the complete opposite to what I had pictured. I pictured a train full of business men and women slouching against velour seats, chugging mini bottles of wine and rubbing aggressively at their eyes as they tried to stay awake on the journey home. I pictured a row of terraced houses on one side and a wall of graffiti on the other. Instead I got a beautiful, detached suburban house on one side and a pretty expanse of water on the other.

Having said that, Emily Blunt was absolutely amazing in her portrayal of Rachel. Ten minutes into the film and I was tearing up, saturated with pity for Rachel’s character. This is the complete opposite response to what I had from reading about her in the actual book. I didn’t feel sorry for Rachel at all when I read the novel, I just thought she was an annoying, drunken mess. In the film, she was a broken woman in a lot of pain. The acting was just faultless. Justin Theroux (Tom) also did a really great job. As soon as he appeared on screen, I felt like there was something very sinister about him. Which from the plot of the film we know there was. There really is so much going on with the story and I’m actually tempted to read the book again and give it another chance as a result. It really is a great plot.
I do have to rant just a little bit about the doctor. Megan is supposed to be seeing a therapist called Dr. Kamal Abdic, who in the book is Asian. But in the film, he is actually played by a Venezuelan actor and instead of changing his name, it was somehow decided that this Venezuelan actor with his Venezuelan accent and appearance should play Dr. Kamal Abdic. I honestly don’t mind if the race of characters are changed, because I’m all for diversity. It would have worked fine if they just replaced Dr. Kamal Abdic with a different name that wasn’t still distinctly Asian. However, to cast an actor who is not Asian, yet still attach him to the identity of the Asian character from the novel is just slightly ridiculous. I think this is an example of the repeated assumption that all ethnicities are the same. That if someone is going to be ethnically diverse, then it doesn’t matter which ethnicity they choose, as long as they have one in there. But that’s not the case at all, because we should be acknowledging and representing individual ethnic identities and not blurring them all into one.
Other than the two above points about the setting and the therapist, I have no major faults with the film. I’m no expert on filming techniques and stuff like that, but the way that this film was shot was just incredible. All the little cut scenes and the voiceover at the beginning. Whoever directed this really did a fabulous job and I would be surprised to read a negative review of it. So if, like me, you were unsure about watching the film because the book just didn’t cut it for you, I would highly recommend reserving judgement and coming at this with an open mind. I’m almost certain that it will surprise you as much as it did me.

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