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Film Review

New film: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
Directed by Tate Taylor

“11 blocks from my door to your doorstep, three years later and it feels too close.”

I had the first two lines of “11 Blocks” by Wrabel in my head as I watched the beginning of “The Girl on the Train.” It’s a fascinating song about the nature of a relationship that never quite seems to end because of the proximity of the two people involved – they’re distant figuratively but not literally.

In “The Girl on the Train,” Emily Blunt’s Rachel is in the same predicament. She’s divorced from Tom (Justin Theroux) but her daily routine continues to take her past the house they shared, as she rides the train to and from the city. She tries not to watch Tom and his new wife Anna as she passes, instead looking two doors down at another couple that seem, in her imagined reality, to be blissfully happy.

But her view of the two households is compromised, not just by the brief windows of opportunity afforded by the passing train, but by the increasing amount of vodka she’s using to numb the pain of her lost marriage. So when she sees something out of place, she has a hard time reconciling her blurred reality, her imagined reality, and the actual reality of what has happened.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed “The Girl on the Train.” Not that I was expecting something less – I just hadn’t really given it a great deal of thought ahead of time. And while I generally enjoy watching Emily Blunt, director Tate Taylor (“The Help”) didn’t have a prior track record for mysteries or thrillers. He does now.

It’s a pretty tight film that delivers non-linear nuggets of information, following multiple characters storylines in the weeks and months leading up to the present. Watching it felt like binge watching an entire season of an online thriller on Netflix or Amazon. I was particularly reminded of the British series “Marcella,” in which a detective deals with periodic blackouts that leave her wondering and worrying what she did during those episodes, much as Rachel forgets what she’s done when she’s been drinking heavily.

Blunt plays the part of the disoriented drunk quite effectively, although the character of Rachel doesn’t provide her with enormous range as she consistently stumbles through her shattered life. The rest of the cast are generally solid although some of the roles are a little thin, with Allison Janney for example not having much to do as a detective who’s also trying to figure out what’s happened.

But the story wins the day here, rationing clues sparingly and providing enough false leads to keep the outcome less obvious than many films of this kind. At just under two hours, it’s going to make my next online binge watching session seem comparatively inefficient.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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