The Girl on the Train
She rides to nowhere every day.
She sits by the window as the train slithers like a snake through city and country, through spring and fall. The sun rises and sets outside, illuminating human stories big and small. Lives begin and end. Love is found and lost. She watches with eyes dulled by drink, mind ruined by grief.
Rachel lives by technicality. Like a ghost, she haunts her ancient days, speeding past the lives she knew, the life she wanted.
Two houses fly past, side by side. Stately and solid they seem. Rachel's hazy gaze clears as she watches them. They're why she rides the train every day, drinking down details with parched desire.
One of them used to be hers. Tom, her ex, lives in the house (her house) still, but he has a new family now. He married his blond mistress, Anna, and she gave him the baby that Rachel never could. Rachel still visits sometimes: uninvited, of course. Unwanted. But she walks by and remembers.
She calls the house sometimes, too. Every week? Day? Hour? She doesn't know. She only knows that sometimes she needs to hear his voice. To torture herself more.
And the other house … well, that's a mystery, isn't it? She doesn't know the people who live there at all. But she sees them. The girl—another blond, beautiful, young—is an artist, she imagines. The guy is an architect, or maybe a doctor. They hug and kiss on the porch upstairs, flaunting their affections before the passing train.
"She's what I lost," Rachel says of the girl. "She's everything I want to be."
But then one day, she sees that mysterious woman—that stranger—kissing a man on that porch upstairs. A different man. She's cheating on her husband, Rachel realizes. Rachel, blurred by drinking, turns furious that this woman would toss away such a perfect life. She gets off the train at her familiar stop, her fragmented mind perhaps piecing together a ragged plan. She's overwhelmed with anger, torn open by grief, destroyed by a stranger.
They've told her not to come by the house (her house) anymore. They told her to stay away. But she walks—staggers—into her old neighborhood. She slouches toward a tunnel and sees someone running through it, blond and shapely. She knows who it is. Who it must be.
"Whore!" Rachel screams. And then—
She wakes up the next morning, in her room. There's blood on her clothes. Bruises on her arms. Vomit in her hair.
She can't remember anything. But she knows—she knows—something terrible happened.
As you might've gathered, Rachel has some issues. But that blackout by the tunnel proves to be the catalyst for helping at least one of them. She goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and weans herself from the booze. And while she doesn't give up on drinking completely and continues to complicate her life in unnecessary, deeply damaging ways, her newfound semi-sobriety affords Rachel some clarity, a chance to repair some relationships. It eventually gives her the courage to stand up for herself and others.
Rachel gets help from others at times. A friend has allowed Rachel to stay in her spare bedroom for two years and has cared for her through Rachel's inebriated fits. A stranger tries to give her a helping hand during one of her blackouts.
Elsewhere, a police officer doggedly pursues a horrific case. A psychologist does his best to bring peace to a patient (though violating some ethical rules to do so). Also, we hear about the preciousness of motherhood, though sometimes those messages are cloaked in moments of pain and longing.
Megan—the mysterious woman whom Rachel watches from the train—has her own set of issues, one of them being that she has sex with too many people. We see her in intimate relations, sometimes with her husband, sometimes with someone else. She's shown in the shower with her lover, both naked. (Her full-frontal nudity just barely obscured by water and mist; we see his bare backside). They have (partially clothed) sex in the woods. They have sex in front of their window, which Rachel watches from the train.
Megan desperately tries to seduce her therapist, pantomiming masturbation during a counseling session and exposing her underwear. She unbuckles pants, sucks on fingers, stands on the porch in just a free-flying robe and her underwear, kissing the man with her. In a flashback, we see her stumble from a bathtub and into the woods, naked. We hear that she lived with a beau when she was 17 for about a year. She calls herself a whore.
Anna, the mistress-turned-wife, kisses and caresses husband Tom affectionately. But during their own love-making turn, Anna seems completely uninterested, her body moving but her face impassible. "I actually miss being the other woman," she admits afterward.
Infidelity is a huge part of the plot, and we hear (sometimes in crass terms) about various affairs and flings and the inability of some to stay monogamous. Rachel develops a crush on Megan's husband, Scott, gently touching him on the chest as she watches him sleep. She's accused of trying to seduce him. There are also revelations about having children out of wedlock.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following section.] Megan disappears the night that Rachel blacked out, and she's later found murdered, allegedly killed by a blunt blow to the head. (We see her hand protruding from dead leaves.) Before the death, Rachel admits what she'd like to do to Megan, describing in detail how she'd sneak into the house, grab her by the hair and smash her head again and again. We eventually see this scenario play out in a foggy vision, hearing the skull crack a bit and seeing the blood begin to spatter the floor and cake the dead woman's hair.
Someone is hit and falls to the ground, the head hitting a rock. The assailant continues the attack, using that rock and another, until the victim is dead. (The mortal blows aren't shown on screen.) A man smashes a glass into a woman's face, causing her to bleed and fall unconscious. Someone is graphically stabbed in the throat with a corkscrew.
A baby accidentally drowns. A man grabs at a woman in a threatening manner. People break mirrors with golf clubs. We hear about the death of Megan's brother. There's talk of someone getting an abortion.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word is used about 60 times, while the s-word is uttered about five. God's name is misused twice, and Jesus' name is abused once. We also hear a handful of uses of "a--," "b--ch" and "h---."
Drug and Alcohol Content
As mentioned, Rachel has a serious drinking problem. Small bottles of booze peek out of the satchel she carries. Then, to hide her issues (though it's pretty obvious that she's drunk most of the time), she spikes her water bottle with loads of alcohol. The Girl on the Train doesn't make light of her alcoholism at all. Indeed, if anything, the film gives us a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Rachel's drinking problem began when she and Tom were unable to have a baby, she later confesses—the sad catalyst that sent their relationship crashing. She recalls blacking out frequently, with Tom telling her what terrible deeds she was guilty of during her drunken throes. Tom seems supportive at first, even when their relationship ends and he marries his mistress. He tries to tolerate Rachel's obsessive behavior and to keep his wife, Anna, calm under the circumstances. But he eventually has enough, telling Rachel that he's not going to protect her anymore.
Rachel's kind friend has also had about enough of Rachel's behavior, eventually telling her that she has a few weeks to find another place to live. It's about that time Rachel tries to clean up her act. For a while, she does go to an AA meeting and controls her drinking a bit more. But when Scott offers her a beer during a conversation, she eventually accepts (after initially turning him down). She plays pool in a bar. And when someone asks her if she's been drinking today, her silence confirms that observation. We do, eventually, see Rachel refuse to drink—even in the midst of times of great stress.
Other people drink wine and beer.
Other Negative Elements
As mentioned, Rachel wakes up with vomit in her hair. There's also a mess on the floor. People lie and mislead and get embroiled in abusive relationships. A therapist struggles with impropriety. Megan expresses distain for motherhood, rankling at her job as a nanny. "I wash the smell of the baby off me as fast as I can," she admits.
Another troubling scene involves someone holding a baby who shouldn't be.
Foreboding trios of women are found throughout ancient mythology and literature. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, three witches foretell the Scottish king's ultimately tragic future. In Greece, it was thought that the three Fates spun out the threads of human life—with Atrapos cutting the thread when the life was done. The three Graeae, or Gray Sisters, held great secrets … but shared just one eye among them.
The three women at the heart of The Girl on the Train are, perhaps, a little like the Gray Sisters. Each of them knows secrets and has secrets of her own. But each, in her own way, is blind. Those secrets, and that blindness, play into the mysterious tragedy that unfolds.
Most moviegoers are not blind. And the story unfurls before them in full. While the movie leads us through its mystery via a trailing of crumbs, its problematic content comes at us in gratuitous waves. Sex and sexual infidelity are at the core of the story, and we're exposed to plenty of both onscreen. The movie's nudity is inescapable. Its brutality is undeniable.
This Train may hold some mysterious intrigue, but the trip is a jarring one. And it, like Rachel's, leads to nowhere.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Emily Blunt as Rachel; Haley Bennett as Megan; Rebecca Ferguson as Anna; Justin Theroux as Tom; Luke Evans as Scott; Édgar Ramírez as Dr. Kamal Abdic; Laura Prepon as Cathy; Allison Janney as Detective Riley; Darren Goldstein as Man in the Suit; Lisa Kudrow as Martha
October 7, 2016
January 17, 2017