This had been a book on my reading list ever since the first trailer. The film is presented as a story about a missing person and a woman who is involved in some way but nobody believes her. While those themes are present in the actual movie, the film is actually about the tortured life of three women and a terrible man that ties them together. Even deeper than that, the movie covers heavy themes of abuse, addiction, and mental health in a very realistic way. But despite it’s compelling premise and some amazing performances, The Girl on the Train fails to reach its full potential.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the train to and from Manhattan every day and is able to see two homes on her route, one of a young and very close couple, and another of a new mother. Megan (Wampaslayer mega-fan Haley Bennett) is a young wife struggling with multiple devastating losses early in life. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is a new mother and wife to Rachel’s ex-husband. Things change when Rachel sees Megan, Rachel’s model of a perfect wife, cheating on her husband from the train. Interestingly as the story begins to get more complicated, the characters backstory becomes deeper. You find out that Rachel is a seriously damaged alcoholic who has been stalking her ex-husband and his wife Anna. When she sees Megan cheating, she follows her into a tunnel and then blacks out, waking up the next day in her bed covered in bruises and blood with detectives knocking on her door. I won’t get too much deeper than that as we get into some heavy spoiler areas but the story gets massively more complex from there.
While it may have thrown off the pacing of the movie a bit, I really liked the different points of view. Each of these women is given some time to show what a day or so is like in their life and both the physical and mental struggles that they face. They are able to explain events in the story or in their personal past without feeling like they were reciting exposition for the audience. Each of the characters explore some very deep personal history and real problems. Rachel struggles with intense alcoholism, Megan with extreme loss early in life, and Anna with her husband’s past. I don’t have any background on treating or diagnosing mental illness but I’ve seen them portrayed in hundreds of movies or TV shows and I believe this is one of the more honest and compelling portrayals out there.
All of the parts of this movie are good from the story, the complexity of the plot, and the performances of everyone involved. Unfortunately the story being told is way too big to fit into two hours of film. The arc of the story works fine but just when you discover the depths of the characters individual storylines, the movie moves into the ending. It seemed like they were building to something very complex and amazing but the limitations of the film just caused everything to deflate. This may be just a case of poor book to movie transfer but I found it disappointing for such a good premise.
I don’t usually care for movies like this but I actually enjoyed this story. It may have been the complexity of the characters or just how well Emily Blunt performed but overall I liked it. It is definitely not for everyone and includes some very intensely violent and disturbing moments but if you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers that take on very deep and raw subjects, I think you’ll enjoy it as well. My only recommendation would be to probably read the book first.