The Girl on the Train novel is one of my favourite novels, and psychological thrillers, to date. It keeps the reader questioning their own judgment, and not entirely sure of who the real culprit in the novel is. Furthermore, I find that it was a fresher look at romantic and sexual relationships in this day and age. As an aromantic asexual, I have to navigate a world that glamorizes romance, marriage, and procreation to the point where most can’t fathom the idea someone wouldn’t want any of those things. Yet, here is a novel that shows the darker side to it, and may have indirectly confirmed that I might not be missing out on too much.
No wonder I wanted to see the movie when I learned about it a month ago. I raised an eyebrow about someone making a film based on it: Sure, popular novels are destined to become films these days. Yet, this was a novel that could be difficult to turn into a film: It doesn’t have one narrator, but three narrators; goes back and forth in terms of timelines, instead of telling the story in chronological order; and it deviates from glamorizing the most popular form of human relationships. Yet, DreamWorks did it and my mother and I got to see the movie today.
First, I want to say I didn’t expect the movie to 100% follow the book. I never do when it comes to film adaptions for the simple reason films aren’t books. Films are a different medium for telling a story, and they have both advantages and disadvantages. For example, a film can give us a visual reference to the story while books have more room, and more time to give more details and nuances.
What I liked about the film is it did honour the novel in terms of keeping the three narratives, as well as telling the tale in non-chronological order. Both the film, and the book, go back and forth from present day to months ago to present day to more months ago and so on. There is no spoon fed plot, and it practically ensures the reader remains at the edge of their seats until the culprit is revealed.
Speaking of culprits, part of the reason I loved the story in both film and novel is it’s a dark story. There is no real happy ending: Love isn’t redeemed in the novel or film. If anything, I’d say the main characters simply move on from romantic relationships and try to piece their lives back together. For once in a movie, love lost and it love betrayed: It betrayed Rachel, Anna used it to betray her principles, and Scott used it against Megan. There is no happy ending, so romantic sail off into the sunset, and no loves first kiss at the end.
One could say the novel is a dark asexual interpretation of romantic relationships: The happy ending isn’t Rachel finding love in the end, but moving on from it. Romance and sex aren’t seen as these beautiful, amazing things that EVERYONE should have, but weapons used to destroy lives and destroy families. Characters like Megan and Tom used it as tools to dominate others; Rachel’s life spiraled down into alcoholism because she couldn’t get pregnant, and her marriage with Tom proved to be a sham! At the end, there is no redemption of romantic relationships. Sure, the characters change, and some do change for the better. Yet, the story over all has no light at the end of the tunnel for romantic love. If anything, I’d say the tunnel says at the end: DETOUR AROUND ROMANCE THIS WAY—>
In truth I was very impressed with the author for doing it. For once I got to read about how not nice having a romantic partner can be, and what living with someone on a domestic basis can really be like. Sure, I don’t doubt that there are many successful romantic relationships in the world. Unfortunately, Hollywood and novels too often idealise them to the point where it’s almost other-worldly for someone like me to come around and say, “I’m not interested in that.” Well, all allosexuals out there, go read the Girl on The Train so you best understand the many reasons to avoid romance, marriage, sex and that entire aspect of life altogether.
Some criticise the movie for presenting blank, and wooden characters in all but Rachel. After seeing the film three times (yes, I liked it that much) I can say that I agree with the blank woodenness of the characters. I wish I could say this is the result of poor movie writing, but it isn’t: In truth in some ways the book did too for the beginning of it: Most of the tale is told from Rachel’s perspective, who for a while is just seen as a stumbling and pathetic alcoholic; Megan is seen as this promiscuous woman who doesn’t care if she cheats on her husband; and Anna is mostly in the background save a few chapters that feature her, and likes to parade around the fact she had 0 qualms about being with a married man.
It isn’t until the middle-end of the novel where it is revealed that the three women are very human, and have more depth than simply the surface level. In some ways, could say the movie eventually sobers up, and shows there is depth to them than the drunk, whore, and house wife. Well, in theory. To me Anna is the only character in the movie that is just there to ensure we get to the ending, unlike the book where she grows from being than the simple housewife who champions that she got away with being the other woman into both a detective and vengeful woman at the end. Unfortunately even in the book her redeeming qualities don’t save her really: Bitch through and through!
The one qualm I really have about the movie is the setting: Was it really too much time, money, and effort to have the movie set in London? I have seen Hollywood movies take place in London with British actors before. Why did this one have to be plucked out of England and dropped off in New York City? Annoying, especially when the main character still has an English accent!