Release date: 5th October 2016/Watch the trailer here
The novel The Girl on the Train by British author Paula Hawkins was hailed by many as ‘the next Gone Girl’, spending thirteen weeks at the top of The New York Times bestseller list and having sold an estimated eleven million copies worldwide. For those that haven’t read it, it’s a psychological thriller told from the perspective of three women: Rachel, an alcoholic; Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband; and Megan, a young woman that Rachel has never met, but watches every day from the window of a train. One day, Megan goes missing. On the night of her disappearance, Rachel drank to the point of blacking out, and cannot remember what happened – only that she was in the exact location where Megan was last seen.
It was inevitable – particularly with the success of Gone Girl before it – that a film adaptation would follow, and the film, directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) follows the plot of the novel almost exactly – the only key difference being that, despite London-born Emily Blunt playing Rachel, the film is set in New York City, as opposed to the novel’s London location. However, in spite of the film staying faithful to its source material (and understandably so, it is a good book), the plot fails to grab its audience on screen as successfully as it did on paper.
It’s difficult to ascertain what it is about The Girl on the Train that doesn’t quite work, particularly with such an impressive cast to bring Hawkins’ characters to life. Blunt is joined by Haley Bennett as Megan, Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex, Tom, and Luke Evans as Megan’s husband Scott – Edgar Ramírez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow also make up the supporting cast, although it feels like most of them are running on autopilot. It is Blunt who does an excellent job as the troubled Rachel, make-up smudged and slurring her words, obsessing over a married couple that she’s never met and struggling to feel remorse for the things that she’s told she did when she was too drunk to remember.
Without physical chapters separating them, however, The Girl on the Train’s attempts to handle the three narrators of the novel become muddled, interspersed with numerous flashbacks and shifts in perspective, until they finally all come together in a melodramatic finale that even someone who hadn’t read the book would be able to see coming from a mile off. Rather than something dark and chilling, The Girl on the Train just feels hopelessly bleak and, despite its best efforts, it never succeeds in shocking its audience as much as it continuously attempts to. If the novel was like a crumpled-up sheet of paper, the film is that same piece of paper but now flattened and lifeless, all of the creases that once made it interesting smoothed out.
The Girl on the Train isn’t bad – but it isn’t as good as it could have been.