There are two ways to watch Tate Taylor’s film adaption of Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train: as someone who read the book and as someone who did not. This means that there are also two ways to review this film.
As a film unaffiliated with the novel, The Girl on the Train is a fast-paced, thrill-based drama. Emily Blunt’s portrayal of a woman who suffers from alcoholism allows for an unreliable perspective and so adds to the shaky nature of the story that unfolds. This characterization is raw and cutting, with scenes showing some of the truly unsettling aspects of addiction — there is no glamorization of alcoholism in the film and that is valuable to the plot and as as an overall take home message.
If the film is watched with the novel in mind, it does justice to the book’s tone. The cameras are often shaky and shots cut in and out in order to keep the audience confused — not much is given in the first twenty minutes that would allow moviegoers to understand any of the characters’ motivations. This is different than the book, where Rachel (played by Blunt in the film) is given priority in the beginning chapters and tells the readers exactly what’s happening with the plot.
There was a change made in the setting that seemed so essential to the film, yet it worked out. Instead of a commute to rainy London, the film adaption is set in New York. Emily Blunt’s character remains English, but the rest of the characters become Americanized. Although it seem that the UK setting was essential to the plot – the pubs, the train commutes and the English suburbia – New York turns out to be a fine replacement. Tate Taylor was able to take a book that emblemized “Englishness” and set it in America; it may have been a questionable action before viewing the film because the novel’s plot points seemed to be inseparable to the culture of England. Taylor proved me wrong.
Whether you read the book or not, I would recommend going to see this film. It’s thrilling and its dramatic dialogue and plot points are an exciting way to spend two hours of your time.