Earlier this year, I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins as part of a book club. I loved the way Hawkins blurred the lines of her thriller by using an unreliable narrator and shifting around the chronology of the story. When I heard that Hollywood was planning a film adaptation of the novel, I was a bit apprehensive. The way that the story is presented seemed uniquely suited for the pages of a book. Still, I entered the theater with some optimism, especially as the trailers seemed to capture the dark tone of the novel.
In the film, Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a woman who has turned to alcohol as her life collapses around her. Each morning, she rides the train to and from work and passes the neighborhood where she and her ex husband used to live. As the train stops at the local station, she has a clear view into the house that her ex now shares with the woman who ended their marriage.
Rachel does her best to ignore the remnants of that former life. Instead, she focusses on the young couple who lives a few houses down the street. Her voyeuristic curiosity allows her to escape from the unfortunate reality that her life has become. But her fantasy come crashing down when she notices the wife in an embrace with another man. The next morning finds Rachel bruised and unable to remember the events of the night before. She awakens to news that a local woman has gone missing. As the picture of the woman permeates the media there is no denying the woman's identity. It is the same woman who Rachel has studied each day on the train. With no recollection of the previous evening, Rachel fears for the worst. What has she done?!
The Girl on the Train turns out to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Hawkins's novel. Director Tate Taylor, who is no stranger to book adaptations after his smash debut The Help, smartly maintains the shifting timeline of the novel. This helps to add intensity and suspense to an otherwise straightforward story. Like the book, the movie is much more a character study of a woman who has lost control of her life. Emily Blunt gives a career defining performance as Rachel, allowing us to connect and even sympathize with her deeply flawed protagonist. The supporting cast of seasoned Hollywood role players all perform admirably in their parts, and Allison Janey in particular shines as a detective who is skeptical of Rachel's testimony. Just like the novel, I felt the movie tipped its hat a bit too early, causing the last act to lack the intensity that the buildup promised. Still, The Girl on the Train is a solid adaptation with a star-affirming performance by Emily Blunt that should please both fans of the novel and casual moviegoers.