The Girl on the Train film adaptation is even better than the book – and better than the Gone Girl movie

Melissa York
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The Girl on the Train

Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Online... two things are clear: girls-doing-stuff is big money, and society will insist on calling fully-grown women “girls”, even after they’ve killed someone (it’s only a matter of time, Zoella).

That’s why the film rights for The Girl On the Train, last year’s shit-hot thriller by Paula Hawkins, were snatched up faster than you can say Richard-and-Judy’s-Book-Club.

Barely a year later, the result is on the big screen and it’s remained largely intact. The only big departure from the page is the setting, which has been relocated from the outskirts of London to the outskirts of Manhattan. In practice, this works fine, because the commute is a universal affliction for most of the developed world, and it’s filmed in the autumn so it’s still constantly raining.

Emily Blunt stars as so-called girl Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee who has recently lost her job because of the ol’ demon drink. Too embarrassed to tell her housemate, she fills her water bottle with vodka and rides the train into the city every day, daydreaming about the people who live in the houses along the railway line. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t, a woman turns up dead, and she decides to get way too involved in the ensuing investigation.

The novel Gone Girl – which, for me, is the better book – triumphs where The Girl on the Train fails: the former is a psychological character study about gender politics, whereas Hawkins’ book is all plot, merely using its characters to progress from one twist to another.

The reverse can be said for the film adaptations: where Gone Girl found it hard to capture the inner life of its female lead without sacrificing plot, The Girl on the Train gives plenty of space for Blunt and her co-stars to flesh out their roles, lending the film greater depth than its source material.

Blunt’s raging drunken monologues are superb and, importantly, she’s great at acting pissed; a much undervalued skill. Her red-eyed, puffy-cheeked Rachel saves the day, with a vulnerability that compels the audience to watch out of empathy, rather than simple curiosity. Well done, Blunt – girl done good.

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