Dripping in suspenseful plot twists, “The Girl on the Train” by Tate Taylor (director of “The Help”) brings a harrowing sisterhood to life in Paula Hawkin’s adaption of her 2015 book.
A disturbingly addictive story, the characters’ performances and their spot-on depictions of the struggles modern women face are what make this movie a grappling nail biter.
Though notable differences from the book (the film is set in New York versus London and the lead character’s drastic physical differences), most of the film stays true to Hawkin’s work.
Rachel, played by the deeply compelling Emily Blunt, is a divorced alcoholic whose sole purpose has become riding the train to and from New York. On her daily commute, she contemplates the potholes in her life, specifically her failed marriage to Tom Watson (Justin Theroux), who left her for a dough-eyed blonde, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). With vodka in hand, she downs the memories away while peering out the train window to obsessively gawk at the perfect couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans).
“Gradually as the months went by, she [Megan] became important to me,” Rachel confesses at one point.
But trouble arises when Megan goes missing, and soon, the tarnished brown-eyed Rachel has all fingers pointing at her, even her own.
Though Blunt shimmers under the spotlight as the leading lady, Bennett gives a rather haunting performance, luring viewers in with her beautiful silhouette that dances across the screen, and inviting curiosity as we learn more about her disturbed past.
As the film peels away Megan’s superficial layers, she begins to confront stereotypes of women everywhere. As a sex symbol to her husband, the only non-sexual scene between the two is Scott’s demands to have a child with Megan, which is arguably another ploy to use her body.
With every frame and every scene, buried beneath her crystal blue eyes is a cry to be something more than just a wife and potential mother.
Yet, that same urgency is felt within Anna: she is the woman who has won. She stole Tom away from Rachel and now reaps the benefits: a big home, a stay at home mom and a newborn. She has it all. With no identity beyond her family, Ferguson’s performance makes us wonder: is this all the modern day woman really wants?
In contrast, Rachel has lost everything. No husband and nothing to live for. On the other side of the glass window, she begs to be let into their perfect imperfect worlds. “She is what I lost –everything I want to be,” she confesses. Her performance is simple yet captivatingly raw. Blunt wears the loss as if it were her own. She is nothing without her husband. She is nothing without a man.
But when all three women’s paths inevitably meet, there are moments of suspense that surface as each woman dances dangerously close to betraying the carefully curated sisterhood the film has created. And when they inevitable do, there are no tears or disappointments; it only further depicts what being a woman in 2016 looks like.
“The Girl on the Train” — 4.5 stars
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity
Running time: 112 minutes
Opens: Oct. 7