Francis Olaku tells you why this 2016 thriller is so popular with audiences – *spoiler alert*.
The Girl on the Train is based on the novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins. The film is centred on the heroine Rachel Watson’s (Emily Blunt) journey as a recently divorced alcoholic to the stalker she becomes, when she frequently visits her old home on long train rides to spy on her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).
Rachel draws the audience in due to her obsession with her ex’s married neighbours: Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Hayley Bennett), whose steamy love-making sessions always catch her eye, as she reminisces on what she used to have with Tom.
On one occasion she catches Megan having an affair with another man, which leads her to seek out Scott and enlighten him on what’s been happening. Her altruistic pursuits end up landing Scott in hot water with the police as they think he is responsible for Megan’s disappearance and eventual death.
Rachel’s train journeys symbolise her sanity, she returns to her previous home to make sense of the past and present. The use of narration in these scenes is masterful as it provides the audience with important sub-textual context. The director makes frequent use of this and with various characters.
The lush greenery of New York coupled with the tranquil soundtrack creates an air of normality. This beautiful effect represents a contrast between good and evil in the movie. Rachel aligns herself with the good, as she seeks justice for Megan’s death, yet her path is constantly blocked by those who think it’s in her best interest to keep out of it.
In the penultimate scene, Tom attempts to strangle Rachel when she exposes him as a liar and a murderer. His current wife watches on, struck to her core at the realisation that her husband is a secret monster. When he does get his comeuppance, the equilibrium is restored, the end of the force of evil that had plagued the characters throughout.
At the end, Rachel returns to the train we met her on in the beginning. This time, the camera zooms out slightly, and Rachel has changed carriages and also sides in the train. This change represents a new start, away from all that had befallen her and was extremely well done.
The acting is top notch, but adulation must be given to Emily Blunt. As an alcoholic, we don’t see her drinking much throughout the movie, but she captures Rachael’s permanent state of inebriation perfectly. She is always on the verge of tears, but never quite gets there (as she’s trying to give a semblance of being in control). Blunt channels the character’s psychological enslavement in such a way that the audience can’t help but feel for sorry for her.
A minor gripe with the movie was that Blunt had a British accent while the rest of the characters had American ones, which could throw some audiences off (perhaps a discrepancy which is explained in the book). However, this added to her characters outsider quality, keeping her disassociated from the events and people around her.
The result is a thoroughly stylistic movie with characters that are gritty and a protagonist that audiences will stick by.