Okay, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this post, you will have already read the novel of The Girl on the Train. If you haven’t, you can read my review of the book here.
As this is a Film to Book comparison there will be spoilers, so please don’t continue reading if you don’t want any info about the film or book.
From the blurb:
The Girl on the Train is the story of Rachel Watson’s life post-divorce. Every day, she takes the train in to work in New York, and every day the train passes by her old house. The house she lived in with her husband, who still lives there, with his new wife and child. As she attempts to not focus on her pain, she starts watching a couple who live a few houses down — Megan and Scott Hipwell. She creates a wonderful dream life for them in her head, about how they are a perfect happy family. And then one day, as the train passes, she sees something shocking, filling her with rage.
The next day, she wakes up with a horrible hangover, various wounds and bruises, and no memory of the night before. She has only a feeling: something bad happened.
Then come the TV reports: Megan Hipwell is missing. Rachel becomes invested in the case and trying to find out what happened to Megan, where she is, and what exactly she herself was up to that same night Megan went missing.
The overall tone of the film was quite disturbing, the shots becoming blurry, sped up or slowed down to show the audience Rachel’s drunken perspective.
There is of course the main difference, moving the setting from London to Manhattan, which outraged most readers of the book, myself included. To be honest the film is very different from the book, so it didn’t take that much away. The fact that Emily Blunt’s Rachel is an English woman in New York adds to her loneliness and desperation.
I wouldn’t say that the film glamourises Rachel’s alcoholism, but some of the more undignified moments from the book, such as Rachel vomiting and urinating on herself, have been left out of the film.
The tagline to the film is “What did she see?”, but it should have been “Did she murder Megan Hipwell?”. In the book there is always that concern in the background that Rachel could have killed Megan, but it is implied rather than stated. Other characters may suspect Rachel, but she never outright acknowledges that she could have hurt Megan. Her focus is always on uncovering what she saw. In the film the director practically hits you over the head with the message that Rachel could be the murderer.
Anna, Rachel’s ex’s new wife is quite different from her character in the book. Whereas in the novel Anna feels really embarrassed about having a nanny when she is a stay at home mum, Anna in the book becomes quite outraged when Megan quits. Anna even justifies the fact that she needs a nanny; going shopping and pureeing food is a full time job.
There are also small changes such as Rachel losing her job in PR over a year ago, instead of a few months, and surviving on Tom’s alimony payments.
Rachel and Scott Hipwell don’t have sex in the film. Their relationship is constrained to a couple of encounters, which impacts on his rage when he finds out she lied about knowing his wife. It makes his reaction seem a bit over the top.
The commuter Rachel remembers encountering on that fateful Friday is no longer a fellow drunkard.
One of the changes with the biggest impact is that Detective Riley approaches Rachel, after Anna reports that she was in the area the night Megan went missing, instead of Rachel inserting herself in the investigation. It changes the tone of their encounters and marks Rachel as a suspect from the beginning.
The fixation Rachel has with the Hipwells is also a lot more intense and obvious in the film. In the novel you get the sense that they are important to her for some reason, that her interest in them functions as some outlet for her unhappiness in her own life, but in the film it is all set out neatly for you right at the beginning.
This is my whole issue with the film; there is no subtlety. The book is a journey of discovery, where the reader picks up more clues from what is said and not said. In the film everything is served up to the audience, unravelled right at the start of the film.
At the end, there is a huge twist for audiences who haven’t read the book, because the signs point to one suspect throughout the majority of the film, but for readers of the book (who know this to be a red herring), it is quite disappointing.
Emily Blunt is brilliant and believable as alcoholic Rachel. Her performance made me feel very uncomfortable and yet I couldn’t help but sympathise with her. The rest of the cast were competent, although Rebecca Ferguson’s wig was incredibly distracting.
Overall it is worth a watch, my husband who hasn’t read the book enjoyed it, but it is quite different to the book.
Let me know if you plan on going to see the film, and how you think it measures up to the book.