The Girl on the Train was not the sweet, feel-good film I had expected after watching the trailer. In fact, it was rather unsettling—in a good way. It differentiated itself from other movies that force you to the edge of your seat with their bursts of thrill for instead, the entire movie was so wonderfully bizarre that every moment was thrilling.
The story surrounds Rachel Watson, a divorced woman suffering from severe alcoholism. Each day on the train, she passes the house that she used to live in with her now ex-husband, Tom, who still resides in the same house with his new wife and child. Over time, Rachel also becomes intrigued with the seemingly perfect lives of Scott and Megan, a couple who live in a nearby house that she watches on the train every day. After spending numerous trips constructing her own idealized story of their life together, she becomes personally attached to the identities of the people she has formed in her mind. Thus, she is quite alarmed when she witnesses Megan kissing another man. When Megan later goes missing, Rachel commits herself to investigating the disappearance, leading her to places she had never expected to go.
Above all else, The Girl on the Train is raw in its awe-inspiring ability to support a complicated plot with complex, un-simplified characters, while still remaining interesting and attractive to the masses. I attribute this to the skill of the actors and the screenplay writer, Erin Cressida Wilson. The lead actress, Emily Blunt, is extraordinary in her portrayal of Rachel, and offers a powerful look into the mental effects of alcoholism, grief, and self-hatred. Additionally, while the audience is allowed this intimate view from inside the mind of Rachel, they are kept at arm’s length from the other female focus of the movie—young, beautiful Megan. Played by Haley Bennett, her character is an enigma that the other characters and audience both strive to understand. Bennett skillfully represents Megan as both enticing and repelling: a paradox that confused and intrigued me throughout the film.
Although the film diverts from the book in several ways, such as location and storyline focus, Wilson has been praised for her adaptation that cinematically retains the literary complexity of Rachel’s character. Jarett Wieselman, a Buzzfeed News Reporter, interviewed Wilson about her directorial adaption, in which he recounts, “Wilson added that her primary focus in the adaptation was to translate the book’s core themes of alcoholism, voyeurism, and women’s issues, and then to—as the mystery novel had—‘put them on a platter that was very popular and easy for wide audiences.’” These heavy topics were well retained in a powerful yet digestible manner, and whether you have read the book or not, the movie is definitely a worthwhile view.