Usually I would start a review with some eye-catching lede. Continue on to mention good points, bad points, some examples of both, and give a final verdict. Yup, that’s the routine. In all honesty, I am not sure if that can be done for The Girl on the Train. The reason is very simple: it left me speechless. Right now I would be satisfied with just telling you it was an amazing movie and you should go watch it. That`s not the way to write a review, however. So let me try.
“I used to watch this perfect couple, and then she betrayed him.” At least that’s what our main character thinks. Rachel is an unemployed alcoholic who spends her days taking the train to New York and back. By no coincidence, said train also passes two houses, one of which used to be hers. The neighbouring house is inhabited by a pair Rachel develops a strange fascination with. Using trembling hands, she sketches bits and pieces of what is, to her, an idyllic life. That all changes one day as our troubled heroine spots something she shouldn’t and becomes a key person in a story far darker than one might anticipate.
In addition to Rachel, we focus on two other seemingly unlinked women: Megan, the person Rachel watches from the train — Rachel`s representation of the “flawless” life — and Anna, new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Thomas, dedicated mother and Rachel’s tormentor. In a sense, she stole the life that belonged to Rachel. As the story progresses it reveals how tightly all three female characters are interwoven through both past and current experiences. The described are just the surface connections we are shown.
The script is tied through much deeper tragedies in the lives of our women and their desperation to build a life around them. The true climax of the plot lies on breaching this very unstable net. Megan goes missing and Rachel is the last person who saw her alive. Yet, thanks to her drunkenness, she can’t fully remember what happened. As she tries to recall the fateful night, her life comes back to her. One of The Girl On The Train’s greatest strengths is its use of retrospective chronology without making the viewer feel lost. Actually, the gradation stands on actions that are happening in actual time and then going back to give us the full picture. This, together with a focus on each woman’s progress in the present, grants unbelievable depth to the characters. The desperation in Rachel, Megan, and Anna is furthermore underlined by the noir atmosphere the movie gives away. It is rare to see a movie breathing book-quality life into characters and it is even more rare to see such effort going well. I really don’t want to spoil the story that builds on unexpected connections by saying anything else. Just go and experience this trainwreck of emotions for yourself.