Movie Review – The Girl on the Train


Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel, The Girl on the Train, director Tate Taylor faced the challenging task of adapting a famous bestseller into the cinematic format.

The plot is focused on protagonist Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic who, after having lost her job, commutes aimlessly on a train to observe the activities of her former husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson). The Girl on the Train is a heartfelt and moving story, the tale of a woman so deep in the world of meaninglessness and nihilism, that she becomes increasingly prone to alcohol abuse and self destruction.  

Unfortunately however, the screen adaption of this story has failed to live up to the high expectations the story has set for itself. For fans of the novel, moving its setting from the gloomy world of rural London to the glamorous center of New York City has itself been a disappointing choice. Even if the audience forgets the novel in the back of their mind, the film alone seems like a missed opportunity. With a story of such potential, the plot often seems overly-dramatized, or simply superficial, failing to address the needed emotional depth. This is exemplarily shown through one of the film’s climatic moments, in which Rachel makes a scene in front of her husband’s boss, resulting in Tom losing his job. The scene, designed to express Rachel’s destructive, frustrated and passively aggressive character fails to create emotional sincerity, seeming static and over exaggerated.

The Girl on the Train is an emotional drama and at times, particularly through an exceptional camera, the film is indeed able to touching moments. Rachel’s alcohol induced blackouts are aptly visualised through the expressive looks of her face, moments in which the camera shows only the heroine’s face, complemented through dark backgrounds and silence, illustrating Rachel’s inebriation, physically and emotionally. Behind Rachel’s fractured personality, the audience gradually meets a girl who, in her own words, admits that she isn’t “who she used to be”.

Moments like these however, are rare in the film’s plot. The film’s scenes often remain dragged out too long, artificial and without feeling. For those not having read Paula Hawkins’ novel, Taylor’s adaption may be emotional entertainment, particularly also because of Emily Blunt’s strong performance, able to correct mistakes in the movie’s storyline through her radiant acting. For true fans of The Girl on the Train however, Taylor’s adaption is simply inadequate.