Based on the best selling 2015 novel, The Girl on the Train tells the sad tale of Rachel (Emily Blunt) a woman who has completely spiraled out of control since her divorce from husband Tom (Justin Theroux). Unable to move forward from her past life, Rachel drinks herself into oblivion as she rides the train past her old home during her daily commute to New York City. She is devastated that her house is now occupied by Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the home wrecker who stole her husband and now proudly wears a ring on her finger as she cradles a beautiful baby in her arms. To dull the pain, Rachel focuses on an attractive couple that live a few houses down from her ex. Rachel projects all of her desires for a happy relationship onto this seemingly perfect couple she spies on every day imagining the wonderful life they share. Rachel’s fragile grip on sanity becomes untethered on the day she realizes the perfect couple she obsesses over is not so perfect after all. She sees the woman embracing another man and it rekindles all of the anger at the deception she faced in her own marriage. That evening, the inebriated Rachel gets off the train in a rage in her old neighborhood and heads down to the train tunnel. When we next see Rachel, she is bloodied and bruised in her apartment, and has no memory of the previous night. She quickly learns that the woman she has been spying on is named Megan (Haley Bennett), and her husband has reported her missing. What happened that night in the tunnel? Did Rachel have something to do with Megan’s disappearance?
This twisted tale gives us glimpses into the lives of these three women whose paths cross in many different ways. Unfortunately, the combination of multiple story lines with numerous flashbacks creates a fair amount of confusion within the plot. While the intent of creating uncertainty in the story seems intended to maintain suspense, it all becomes a bit too muddled to propel the story forward. Each of the three main female characters has a fascinating story to tell, but the film doesn’t explore these as deeply as the novel did, which is a shame. It feels like the film is trying too hard to maintain and then reveal the big twist—a plot device that was so successful in the film Gone Girl which this story has often been compared to.
Even with the story structure problems, there is some fantastic acting to enjoy. I’ve been so impressed with Emily Blunt’s varied career from acerbic fashion assistant (The Devil Wears Prada) to action hero (Edge of Tomorrow) to musical theater (Into the Woods). She transforms from a beautiful English rose into a terrifyingly raw, ugly alcoholic who is really hard to root for. It’s a fearless and gutsy performance and makes you want to skip that second cocktail for fear of ever becoming anything like her. I especially wished that Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna had more screen time as she was the least explored character in the story and I wanted to see where Ferguson could take that role.
It’s a shame that the pieces of this story didn’t completely come together because I love a good thriller and I’d love to see more films featuring strong female characters. If you did read and enjoyed the book, the film’s worth a matinee but I’d probably just wait for it to come out as a rental. If you are looking for a suspense film with a flawless plot twist, go ahead and watch the the gem The Sixth Sense. I dare you to find a more perfect example of cinematic subterfuge. Enjoy!