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The Girl on the Train

Alcoholic women in film are usually portrayed as playful or clumsy; in general Hollywood has had a set image of how drunk men and drunk women should look and be distinguished from one another. I was therefore very surprised and delighted to see a struggling alcoholic woman portrayed in a very different light in The Girl on the Train; unfortunately I don’t think this was meant to be the highlight of the film.

The Girl on the Train is a mystery thriller adapted from the best selling novel by Paula Hawkins. We are guided in the story by Rachel (Emily Blunt) an alcoholic who frequently blacks out and has large gaps in her memory from the times she went overboard with her drinking. Rachel lives in the outskirts of New York, and she takes the train every day to go into the city; on her commute she passes a house with a beautiful couple (played by Haley Bennett and Luke Evans), which she envies and adores at the same time. One day the woman in this perfect couple disappears.

The set up for the disappearance is more complicated than what I resumed, but I feared giving too much away could possibly spoil the twists and turns of the story. The film is really pitched to be a mystery film, but I was much more intrigued with its analysis of alcoholism than with the disappearance of the woman. One reason could be that the pacing in the first hour is an absolute mess; there are frequent cuts between three different narrators in different time frames; and while this isn’t necessarily hard to follow it is annoying and it slows the flow of the film, making it incredibly choppy. Then there was the fact that none of the characters were likeable at all, you didn’t really care what happened to any of them except perhaps Rachel because you pity her addiction. This might well be more of a critic for the book than the film, but I found that being a crucial part of my engagement in the narrative.

It really isn’t until the last 40 minutes of the film that you get what you paid your ticket to see. After much stalling, the film finally gets into the gritty mystery and forgets the time and narrator jumps. It proves to be exhilarating and what made Gone Girl such a great film (sorry I couldn’t help bring the comparison). The ending was also much darker and twisted than the rest of the film; it takes the audience completely by surprise and successfully achieves some to look away from the screen.

The film is also littered with many strong performances, specifically from the three leading ladies: Blunt, Bennett, and Rebecca Ferguson (who plays Rachel’s ex-husband’s wife). The men were, thankfully, shunned off to a side, although there were notable performances from many of them as well (Edgar Ramirez and Justin Theroux also featured in the cast). I was specifically proud of Blunt who gives her best dramatic performance to date in this film but not overdoing her drunkenness, and rather infusing it with a subtlety and a well of caged up emotions. It makes Rachel, which is written to be extremely creepy and horrible, to be humanized and pitied.

In the end The Girl on the Train never finds its’ footing until its final act, which is nail-biting and hypnotizing to watch. There are very strong performances from the female cast, but you can’t help but leave the theater a bit disappointed with the overall result.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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