The Girl on the Train, directed by Tate Taylor, is a film that certainly offers up an interesting story, and certainly delivers some layered characters; however nothing is ever explored to the extent that feels meaningful. There are hints of really compelling elements, but in the films 2 hour runtime it never achieves what it first suggests it has to offer. This film is a mixed bag; it has some really good elements within it, but it also has a lot of failings to it as well. So let’s get the review on the tracks and see where this film might have gone wrong (I was going to finish that last sentence by saying ‘off the rails’ but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.) Anyway, review time.
In the film we are introduced to Rachel – played by Emily Blunt – whose life is in shambles. Her ex-husband, Tom – played by Justin Theroux – cheated on her with another woman, Anna – played by Rebecca Ferguson – and now alcohol and a strange infatuation with a loving couple are all that fuel her. But things take a turn when she discovers that the loving couple she so admires is actually not so perfect. Megan – played by Haley Bennett – is cheating on her husband Scott – played by Luke Evans – and after seeing this, Rachel loses control and is possibly the person who is now responsible for the disappearance of Megan.
I’m of a split mind when it comes to this film. On the one hand there were some absolute standout performances, but on the other hand there is a noticeable lack of time given to explore any of the at first very interesting elements that make up the film. What started as me being engaged and intrigued to see how things develop, soon turned into me being let down and disappointed that such potential was squandered. So I guess I should get into the specifics of just where things went wrong for me, while also praising those elements that gave me hope.
I want to start off by talking about just how faultless the performances are in this film: and I absolutely have to talk about Emily Blunt first. For me, so much of Blunt’s performance came from the eyes; there was a distance, a sense of loss and self-destruction in her eyes, and I just couldn’t help but focus on it. Rachel as a character goes to some really dark places and following along with her on that spiral downwards is certainly a sight to behold. I am assured in saying that Emily Blunts performance is the tall standing beacon of brilliance in ‘The Girl on the Train’.
But that’s not to say that the other actors in the film are just moseying around and delivering performances that underserve the film – because they definitely don’t! Haley Bennett immediately comes to mind as another standout in the film; the irresistibility that she exudes but also the hints of sadness that follow closely behind are all delivered in such an intoxicating way. You can tell there is something more to her, and thanks to the performance by Haley Bennett that is ever present.
I could easily rattle a few more paragraphs that breakdown and delve into the nuances of each of the performances that the actor deliver, but there’s no need to continue to say what is so clear to see in this film; Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Rebecca Ferguson all absolutely deliver in this film.
But here’s where we start to pivot over to where the film began to fall apart for me, and a lot of it lies within the fact that the film just doesn’t take the time to adequately flesh out all the elements that make up the film – it’s an unfortunate situation where the film has so much that it can work with and delve into, that it then stretches itself to thin and it results in nothing getting the attention or time it deserves. Take the characters of the film, I’ve spent some time breaking down the good parts about the characters (mainly that the actors who play them all bring it) but what the film fails to do is give meaningful enough time for them to expand as people in the overall story. They are characters whose initial building blocks make them extremely interesting to follow, but after a while the film doesn’t make any real effort to expand on those initial points; what this then all resulted in was me disconnecting from the characters and not caring about the outcomes of any of them.
Another aspect that also plays into my gradual disinterest in the film was a crime-mystery that started off so interesting and then kind of just became bland and very simple. There was no compelling investigations or twists, there was just convenient (a little too convenient I might add) revelations that didn’t feel earned, nor did they feel like satisfying revelations. Plot points just plodded from one to another and the simple-ness in which they occur meant that I quickly on figured it out in my head and was left to just watch as my predictions were revealed to be correct. So as the film got to its big final crescendo moment, I was left completely uninterested and waiting for it to wrap things up so I could leave – which is never how you want to be feeling when watching a film.
So while all of this was going on and I was now passively watching the film, one thing kept coming into my head: that the book that the film was based on would be a much more satisfying experience (I’m assuming). If you went into this film unaware that is was based on a book, I think you’d quickly catch-on to the fact that it was. I couldn’t help but notice that what were probably long, expansive and in-depth explorations of the characters and the story and the mystery that runs throughout it all, was probably approached in such a satisfying way (duh, it’s a book). But I could just see all the content that was chopped out and all the expansive content that was trimmed down so that it could be a 2 hour film, and what it all left me thinking was, “Damn, I wish I read the book instead.”
From the trailers I was interested to see ‘The Girl on the Train’ and now I wish I hadn’t. I was left uninterested, disappointed and let-down – there was real potential here and unfortunately it was wasted.
I will not be recommending ‘The Girl on the Train’. A film that fails to capitalise on the many opportunities it seemed to have and I think the most disappointing thing is that those brilliant performances by those actors was wasted on a sub-par film.
What did you think of ‘The Girl on the Train’? I’d love to hear in the comments down below. If you’re feeling generous and would like to continue to read my other work, may I suggest either following this blog directly, or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for taking the time to read this and anything else I may have written, it means so much!