The Girl on the Train.

I really enjoyed this book so the idea of the film made me nervous. Everyone knows the book is always better, right? But I decided to take a punt and watch it anyway.

Emily Blunt stars as Rachel Watson, an unemployed alcoholic with a penchant for drunk-dialing her ex husband, Tom. Their marriage ended when Rachel found out about Tom’s affair with their real estate agent, Anna, whom he subsequently married. Rachel believes her drinking was a primary reason for their divorce- a problem that emerged when she was unable to conceive. Her drinking induced blackouts in which, Tom told her, she behaved appallingly. Rachel’s guilt and self-loathing is evident as she obsesses over her failed marriage. She can’t seem to let go.

rachel the girl on the train

Rachel’s drinking lead to her losing her job, but she continued to catch the train into the city each day anyway, fortified with a water bottle full of vodka. Her daily commute took her right past the house she lived in with Tom. The one he lives in with his wife and daughter. Rachel becomes fascinated with Tom and Anna’s neighbours, a couple she can see from the train. The woman, Rachel feels, is the epitome of everything she wants to be. Beautiful, desirable and adored by her husband. This woman is Megan Hipwell, who also works for Tom and Anna as their nanny.

megan the girl on the train

Megan’s life is not the perfect, romantic vision that Rachel imagines it. She is troubled and secretive. Her husband, Scott, is controlling and demanding. She begins an affair with her psychiatrist, Dr Kamal Abdic. One day, from the train, Rachel sees them kissing on the balcony of Megan and Scott’s home. Drunk and irrationally angry, Rachel tries to confront Megan (who she doesn’t actually know) on the street. The next thing she remembers is waking up at her home, bruised and bloody. When she hears that Megan has gone missing, she has no memory of what might have happened. The police, knowing Rachel was in the area when Megan vanished, interview her. Rachel manages to involve herself in the case, trying to find out what happened to Megan Hipwell while also trying to recover her sense of self.

Bechdel Test.

Pass: There is some conversation between Rachel and her flat mate, Cathy. Much of this story line was missing from the movie; their relationship was more prominent in the book. Megan and Anna converse while Megan is working for Anna and Tom as their nanny. Rachel and Anna speak, although it’s quite hostile for the most part. It’s not a great pass on this one, though. The majority of woman to woman conversation relates to a man.

Sexy Lamp Test.

Pass: The story is told primarily through the eyes of three women; Rachel, Megan and Anna. The story couldn’t be told properly without any of them.

Mako Mori Test.

Pass: The Girl on the Train has more than one female character who has her own narrative arc that isn’t supporting a man’s story.

the girl on the train

A Few Thoughts.

This movie passes all the “tests” for feminist movies but still had some fairly big problems. It shows that these tests really are just a starting point!

  • There is very little diversity in the cast. This is a story that is mostly about straight, white people.
  • Motherhood is a recurrent theme here. Rachel’s alcoholism seems to have come from her inability to have a baby. Anna’s power is rooted in the fact that she “won” Tom and became a mother. Megan didn’t want to have a baby which caused friction in her marriage. Motherhood is firmly bound to keeping a man happy.
  • Emily Blunt was an interesting choice as Rachel. I thought she did pretty well in the role and can’t fault her performance. One thing that didn’t fit was her looks. Emily Blunt is conventionally beautiful. Even when made up complete with red-rimmed eyes and a haggard expression. Rachel Watson, we know from the book, is overweight, frumpy and unattractive. Even the author of the book, Paula Hawkins, has mentioned this discrepancy in the casting. It’s 2016 and filmmakers are still reluctant to portray heavier, less conventionally attractive women. Sigh.


Have you seen The Girl on the Train? What did you think?


#FYBF @ With Some Grace.


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