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Emily Blunt in a still from ‘The Girl on the Train’
Emily Blunt in a still from ‘The Girl on the Train’

Film review: The Girl on the Train

Emily Blunt is compelling, but 'The Girl on the Train' is no 'Gone Girl'

This is an Emily Blunt showcase all the way. She’s fantastic as the drunk, vulnerable, abused, confused ex-wife Rachel Watson struggling to regain a foothold in society after her divorce. Her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), has married Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and all Rachel has to fill the void of having neither child nor home is inside a vodka bottle, with a side of voyeurism from the train window. She spies on her former home from afar and then, just further down the street, peeps in on Megan’s (Haley Bennett) perfect marriage to Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel obsesses over these two scenarios from her train carriage.

But we gradually learn that what seems perfect from afar is not necessarily so up close. Megan is unhappy too, finding comfort only in long jogs and in the care of her rather attractive psychiatrist Kamal (Edgar Ramírez).

Megan also happens to be Tom and Anna’s neighbour and nanny to their newborn. One day, an inebriated Rachel thinks she sees Megan on the porch of her pretty white house embracing a man other than Scott. She gets off the train and rushes towards Megan’s house. The next day Rachel awakens in her room covered in blood and bruises. And now she’s the main suspect in a grisly crime investigation. Rachel becomes desperate to piece together the missing moments and to convince the police that she has nothing to do with Megan’s mysterious disappearance.

Director Tate Taylor (Winter’s Bone, The Help) crisscrosses timelines to a flabbergasting level. The narrative jumbles up days and lives and respective angst. Tom, Scott and Kamal are made to act suspiciously. There are no happy people here, no casual “how’s the weather" talk. Even the investigating cops are menacing.

Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestselling book seems rushed and clumsy. (I say “seems" since I have not read the novel.) Initially the three women are narrating their own stories, setting up a mood for what lies ahead. But eventually the narrative fixes on Rachel’s point of view. If it had not been for Blunt’s fantastic performance, the film would have come across as a quickie aimed at capitalizing on the novel’s popularity. As far as thrillers go, The Girl on the Train works hard to make every player seem suspicious but the result isn’t as juicy or caustic as Gone Girl, a hit adaptation in roughly the same genre.

The Girl on the Train releases in theatres on Friday.

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