Rachel Watson is divorced, drinks too much and takes the same train to work every day, a journey that passes her old house where her ex-husband lives with his new wife and child. Rachel focuses on some near neighbours to distract her but when she sees something violent and shocking at their house, and wakes the following day hungover and bruised, she is plunged into a nightmare.
Review by Tommy Draper
The runaway bestseller makes its way to the big screen with much fanfare and a big-name cast. Focusing on the fractured, fragile Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic who’s on the fast-track to rock bottom after the break-up of her relationship, we follow her commute each day on the train into the city. The train passes her old house, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) lives with new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. To take her mind of her continued heartache at this reminder of what she lost, each day she watches neighbours Megan (Hayley Bennett) and boyfriend Scott (Luke Evans), fantasising about their perfect lives together. A perfect life that Rachel has been searching for.
When Rachel sees Megan in an embrace with a man other than boyfriend Scott, her tenuous, fragile world begins to break apart. Then Megan disappears, eventually turning up dead, news of which leaves a host of suspects for the police. Rachel herself is one such suspect and is now suffering from drunken blackouts, and has memory loss of that particular evening.
The strength of the book and this adaptation lies in the unravelling of its mystery, both the whodunnit and the why. But with plenty of track changes along the way, you never quite know where you’re heading. The standout of the movie, the one real reason to see it, is Emily Blunt. Her Rachel is a deeply broken and brave central character and as the film trundles on, we learn just how damaged she is, and admire her for simply keeping going.
Yet even with all this impressive acting from Blunt, and that tricksy, interesting plot, the film is still a very difficult one to actually get involved in. With very little ‘light’, the characters, though brave and noble, are hard to connect with. For the most part, you’ll find yourself observing their lives from afar, much like Rachel herself, without ever becoming submerged emotionally.
Overall, the destination that director Tate Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson are aiming for is one you want to reach, and thus the journey is at least bearable. But there is also the feeling that you’re on a sort of replacement service and, whilst you can see where the track is heading, it’s not really where you want to be.