One of the most hotly anticipated cinematic releases of the year, this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel (which is still enjoying its reign atop the paperback and eBook charts in multiple editions) was set to continue the marketable success of ‘the thriller that shocked the world’ – and I’m not entirely sure it succeeded.
One of the first major differences between the book and the film was the setting. The afore mentioned presents The Girl on the Train as a commuter story, there is something undeniably relatable about its London setting, so I was a little disconcerted to see that the setting had been traded in for the very ‘Hollywood’ setting of America. Whilst the setting does not really affect the story telling, it does seem to affect the mood. Drama does not seem to be built in quite the same way and there is something missing which rather feels like London itself.
That aside, I thought the protagonist Rachel was excellently rendered by British actress Emily Blunt whose performance made knowable the confusion, fear and self-loathing evident in the unreliable character. What was well achieved in the film was the sense of Rachel’s interiority, which I had worried would be lost in a cinematic adaptation – this is one factor which worked to delay the realisation of the ending and the unravelling of the novel’s central (and secondary) mysteries.
The film was, if not a completely accurate portrayal of the intention of the novel, certainly atmospheric and the tension between the central characters which led to the shocking truth was palpable. That being said, the editing of the film and its consequent narrative structure which flickered back and forth between past and present in a less straightforward way than in the novel, left me feeling confused and uncertain about where the film was going even though I had read the book.
I came away from the film with mixed feelings – I had enjoyed it as a rendition of the book – apart from the setting alteration, it had been very true to the story – but there was something missing for me, I couldn’t quite out my finger on it until I sat down to write this but I think it is this: by glamorising the setting and other characters in the novel, Rachel no longer feels like one of us, she no longer feels like any girl on the train who could have been enthralled by a scene viewed from her window, but in fact has become a symbolic anti-heroine whose story could not really happen to any commuter travelling to work.
Worth a watch for book – to- film enthusiasts, The Girl on the Train was released for cinema on 5th October 2016 in the UK.