Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Justin Theroux and Emily Blunt play Tom and Rachel, who are entangled in a mystery after Emily observes something from her train.

Barry Wetcher

2 out of 4 stars

The Girl on the Train
Written by
Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by
Tate Taylor
Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson

That girl – or more properly that woman – on the train is an embittered alcoholic who has crawled inside a vodka bottle to escape the memory of her failed marriage even as she stalks her adulterous ex-husband and his new wife.

As director Tate Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson turn the bestselling British novel The Girl on the Train into an American movie, the woman's heartbreak, her anger and her drinking all feel touchingly dramatic. That's thanks almost entirely to Emily Blunt's smeary-eyed and trembling version of the pathetic Rachel, always dialling her ex's cellphone after she's had a few. What is much less plausible, and not particularly thrilling, is the outlandish plot in which she entangles herself as she rides a commuter train that passes by her former home.

The film moves the story from the old railway suburbs of London to wealthier ones outside New York, leaving an audience to puzzle over why people this prosperous wouldn't move further from the tracks. Indeed, their perfect houses are so close to the passing train that Rachel can spy on her ex and his new wife living with their baby in her old house – and witness an apparently happy young couple who live a few doors down.

Story continues below advertisement

That couple, fond of copulating near curtainless windows or embracing in their garden, seem like the perfect pair until Rachel sees the woman up on her balcony kissing a different man. Rachel is enraged by this new example of adultery and when the woman goes missing the following day, the erratic and obsessive alcoholic, terrified that she may have assaulted the adulteress during a blackout, turns detective to find a culprit.

The notion of a barely functioning alcoholic with long gaps in her memory as a crime-solving protagonist provides an unusual twist on the old amnesia ploy and a strong premise for a thriller, while Blunt does full justice to a disintegrating yet likeable character.

But Paula Hawkins's original novel included not only this unreliable narrator but also two other first-person voices and, on film at least, they prove much less compelling. Rebecca Ferguson plays the new wife Anna as sweetly domesticated in her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux) and prettily alarmed by Rachel's stalking, but nothing more. As the woman on the balcony, who is Anna's neighbour and coincidentally her nanny too, Haley Bennett can't make head nor tail of the troubled Megan's erratic behaviour. Megan has a complicated and distant backstory that she tells to her psychiatrist to justify her promiscuity but none of it makes much emotional sense as Bennett stumbles from scene to scene. Meanwhile, in the tricky role of the apparently sympathetic and long-suffering Tom, Theroux's bland performance gives no hint of an explanation for a potentially intriguing character.

The culprit in Megan's disappearance becomes rather obvious around the midpoint and, after various red herrings are rapidly dispatched, the unmasking is not exciting enough to fill out the last third of the movie. As Rachel desperately stabs an attacker with a corkscrew, you have to wonder what happened to a story that started out with a provocatively hard-headed take on female alcoholism.

I suspect The Girl on the Train, whose original protagonist was described not merely as alcoholic but also ugly and overweight, has suffered from its Atlantic crossing, one of those artistically unnecessary Hollywood transpositions based on the sad but enduring assumption that American audiences are only interested in things that happen to other Americans – and preferably rich ones. Clearly, the novel's plot was also filled with lurching coincidences, but here it suffers from being further unanchored in any kind of geographic or cultural reality and, rather ironically, driven entirely by the one character played with an English accent.

I say "I suspect," because I am judging the impact of the novel from reviews; I haven't read it – and chose not to, on the theory that, without foreknowledge, I would be better able to judge the impact of what I gathered was a narratively twisted ending. Taylor does find effective cinematic means of rendering Rachel's shifting point of view, replaying scenes as her drunken memories return to her, but the overall surprise feels simultaneously overwrought and flat. Whatever the locomotive power of the novel, this film adaptation only limps into the station.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies