The Girl on the Train review: ‘a soft and sappy copy of Gone Girl’

Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. Picture: eOne

Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. Picture: eOne - Credit: Archant

Plot contrivances, incredible characters and distracting time shifts abound in this tedious adaptation

If you haven’t read the book, I think you will come away from the film version thinking that Paula Hawkins must have a hell of a way with words to have spun this into a bestseller. Broken down into the rudiments of a screenplay the plot of The Girl on the Train seems to be a very thin thing.

A woman spying on the house of her ex-husband and his new family during her daily commute is a decent start; having her create a fantasy around the perfect life of a woman who lives two doors down and then having that woman disappear is quite a stretch.

You assume the story will deliver some cunning twists to justify all the contrivance. In fact the story turns on the alcoholic title character (Emily Blunt) blacking out at a crucial moment and not remembering what happened on the night of the disappearance.

Maybe the book’s success was mainly down to a post Gone Girl readership who were eager for more of the same, and alighted on this as an easy come down read.

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The film plays the Gone Girl comparisons hard with lots of shifts in time and perspective, designed to distract from a sense that not a great deal appears to be happening.

While Gone Girl appealed equally to both sexes, this is positioned for the female market: it isn’t coincidence that this tale of a female drunk singleton is coming out just after Bridget Jones 3.

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It is offering something soft and sappy, unlike Gone Girl which was as twisted as it was twisty, and didn’t let anyone off the hook.

The book’s tension is rooted, I suppose, in unreliable narrators and not knowing quite what is true. On screen this translates into a film where nobody seems believable and none of their actions seem credible.

Watching them all flap aimlessly about you realise what this needs is a proper TV detective, a Lewis, a Morse or whatever incarnation of Taggart we are up to, to come along and get things organised.

Then maybe you could acceptably fill a couple of hours of ITV prime time.

Reviews on halfmanhalfcritic this week: War on Everyone, blu-ray releases of When Marnie Was There, The Sacrifice and Love and Death.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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