Before and during one presence would haunt and over shadow the production and viewer reception of ‘Girl on a train’ being brought to screen from novel. The extreme success of its contemporary literary counterpart ‘Gone Girl’ which in similar fashion was released to box office triumph from the novel. Whether it’s due to the rise in popularity of female based thrillers containing multi layered females above 22years old or unfortunate timing. Fans of Paula Hawkins’s runaway bestseller were initially not pleased with the story moving location to New York perhaps taking away the natural gritty London fog and atmosphere present in book. However, Emily Blunt is the saviour of the film giving a fantastic performance in her first substantial lead role.
Depressed high functioning alcoholic Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the train back and forth pretending to go work each day to keep routine and fool family and friends she is coping well with being newly divorced. Passing through the idealistic suburbs each day she imagines a perfect life and becomes obsessed with a couple who she believes to have a perfect life. This couple live unfortunately close to her ex-husband and his new wife Tom (Justin Theroux). The couple she idolizes and admires actually hold their own secrets and eventual murder, covering a dark existence behind the closed doors of this well-kept affluent neighbourhood. However due to Rachel’s obsession combined with frequent black outs due to drinking, her perception and account of the night of the murder is questionable. Perhaps she also has more involvement than she thinks due to her fixation on this married couple.
Ultimately Rachel seems to self-punishing by continuously choosing to ogle daily from afar at not only her ex-husband and his new wife but even further another couple by dreaming about their perfect lives. She is an extreme fantasist and uses alcohol and obsession to escape her real problems of unemployment, lack of motivation and being unable to let go of the divorce.
“I’m not the girl I used to be…” and “I am afraid of myself….* – Rachel (Emily Blunt)
These quotes echo Rachel’s deep dissatisfaction and the events and outcomes of her life and sum up the main themes of the movie. It explores the idea of being trapped in emotional downturn unable to move forward personally. Usually female characters in such films as ‘Gone with the Wind’ showcase strong females suffering hardship and depression to somehow persevere through change and trouble they encounter even if they self-medicate initially. Here we find Rachel who is near unlikeable, she is meddling as she tries to investigate other people’s lives which will not benefit her own circumstances but rather complicate it. Her narrative voice is changing constantly due to the drinking and sadness over the divorce and her former life. She is however human. While she is not the hero or role model for women between 25-35 she realistic as a character who finds herself in a rut and through distraction ends up in a murder investigation. Her obsession with the couples is exploring many women’s unrealistic and unattainable expectations of a perfect marriage. Highlighting that underneath the surface people face their own problems and are not picture perfect behind great houses, beauty and family.
The film while can feel as bleak as the plot visually. It’s draining and tiresome with few moments of light relief. The cold blue and grey palette continues the themes visually. Emily Blunt proves she is an underrated actress and more than her most well-known role in a Devil wears Prada. The screenplay however does not leave room for her character to reach an arch of self-discovery. However, this could be interpreted as the writers addressing the reality of people’s behaviour. Not everyone has realisation.
Von Von Lamunu