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

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 October 2016

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

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

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.

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.

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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