The Girl on the Train

The book vs the film

Screengrab taken from my Kindle.

The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller written by British author Paula Hawkins in 2015. It immediately found itself at number 1 on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list and remained there for over 3 months! Unsurprisingly, it was soon picked up by Holywood with it’s UK premiere held in London on 20 September 2016. I read the book last year, and wasn’t sure I liked it, so on Sunday night I went to see the film, after being told by numerous people that I wouldn’t like it…

The blurb

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of backgardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just a girl on the train.

My thoughts on the book…

Positives

I kept reading, it was a page turner. There was just enough of a hook to keep me reading, I wanted to know what happened to the characters.

Negatives

It’s really hard to relate to any of the characters. I’ve heard comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and I think it could be largely down to the fact that none of the characters in either book are likeable. Can you remember the last book you read where you didn’t like a single character?

It’s also fundamentally a whodunit, so the ‘big twist’ is more of a ‘big reveal’. And I guessed who it was before the said reveal.

My thoughts on the film…

Positives

I still didn’t like any of the characters, so in that respect it stays true to the book 🙂

Emily Blunt, who plays Rachel, is one of my favourite actresses and despite the arguments against casting her in this part, I think she portrayed the character quite well.

The film had quite a cinematic quality that reminded me of Atonement (the film, not the book, obv). However, my friend said that this ‘quality’ made it look like it had been filmed against a green screen… so you know, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

Negatives

Like many film adaptations of British books, the film is made across the pond. Rachel is still English, but it’s set in New York with her commute being the train journey into New York City from the suburbs. The book describes the grey commuter drudgery that is London, not the shiny sunny metropolis that is New York City.

The film doesn’t feel like it climaxes… as good as it is at building tension I kind of felt that it didn’t really go anywhere. It’s possible of course that this is because, having read the book, I knew what was going to happen, but it felt very much like the drama stayed on one level…

I know I’ve listed this as a positive, but this wouldn’t be a fair evaluation if I didn’t mention the casting of Emily Bunt as Rachel. Rachel, in the book, is described as overweight, a wreck, ugly. At one point in the film a male character claims he wouldn’t touch her with a barge pole (my words, not his) and I’m watching it thinking; she’s still quite hot. Emily Blunt with a mascara streaked face and dry chapped lips is still far hotter than me!

To sum up…

I didn’t really like the book, having been billed as the next Gone Girl I had quite high expectations and Hawkins The Girl on the Train doesn’t quite live up. The characters are not likeable or relatable. I felt like I should feel sorry for Rachel, but I didn’t (although she clearly had her reasons for her behaviour as comes out later in the book). It’s narrated by different characters; each chapter told from a different character’s point of view and none of them are reliable narrators. The drunk, the liar and the questionable…

The film retained many of these… I’m going to plump for the word ‘qualities’ here, although I’m not sure that’s the right one. But I did like how it was filmed and the darkness of the story is portrayed incredibly well.

But, since the tension didn’t really go anywhere for me, I can’t say I thought the film was a success. Sure, all film adaptations have to make cuts, otherwise the film would take an entire day to watch! But maybe the cuts were made in the wrong places, the teasing drip feed of information and the climactic reveal both seemed to be somewhat lacking.

Would I recommend going to see it? Sure. I think I might have preferred it to the book, but then that wouldn’t be hard for me! If you want to read the book, lower your expectations and you might find it an enjoyable read, but for me it’s not the best thriller I’ve read. Although, as I said before, it stayed at number 1 on the New York Times Fiction Best Seller List for three months, so my opinion could just be plain wrong.

Have you read or watched it? What are your thoughts?

 

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