Story Analysis: The Girl on the Train

First, the novel is exceptional. If you haven't read it, go read it! Yes, it rightfully deserves all the attention and accolades it is receiving. 

Watched the film and I like it, but I like the novel more. 

While I'm doing a story analysis of the film, it should be noted that adaptation is extremely difficult. You have to basically take only the main part and then throw out the rest. 

I wanted to like the movie more but I think two things prevented it from reaching the same level as the novel:

  1. Multiple voice-over
  2. Know the villain too early

If you have read the novel, then you know that it has multiple POVs and so I understand the desire to respect the original work by having multiple POVs. But, it ended up feeling very stilted because the movie, unlike the novel, doesn't carry out the multiple POVs throughout the film. It is used only in the set-up and then we're back to one POV (from the main character). 

The Affair has multiple POVs and it works because the TV medium has a lot more time than film. One of the appeals of The Affair is that the different perspectives make you question reality as you're not really sure what happened as people disagree on the events and there is no authoritative voice to help the audience discern who to believe. 

For film, I find it difficult to like the characters when we’re introduce to one of them and then we switch again and again. 

Image of when Megan Hipwell discovers her baby from Girl on the Train

Image of when Megan Hipwell discovers her baby from Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train is Rachel Watson's (played by Emily Blunt) story. But, Megan Hipwell's (Haley Bennett) story threatens to undermine Rachel's because her story is equally compelling, especially the scene of her accidentally drowning her baby when she fell asleep. Megan's way of life and treatment of the people around her makes me want to learn more about her. 

Also, because of Rachel and Megan, Anna’s (Rebecca Ferguson) POV becomes trivial since it isn't as compelling as these two characters. Anna had an affair with Rachel's husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and is now married to him. Anna dislikes and distrusts Rachel. While we understand her distrust, her POV is non-essential in the film. In the novel, it's compelling because we get to revisit Anna's POV and learn more about her. We get none of that in the film. 

In this case, I think the multiple POVs actually worked against them. 

The other problem though is that the film revealed the villain too early. 

Again, I understand the desire for fidelity to the original but we also have to remember that different media have different requirements. 

When Anna discovers Megan’s phone and hears her voice, we suspect that Tom is the killer. Anna doesn't do anything and then Rachel appears. This would have been the time to have Anna’s POV for why she’s staying with someone she should be suspecting but we don't get to see it. Instead, Tom shows up and Anna confirms to him that she discovered Megan's phone. 

To me, it would have been great if Anna could have made us believe that somebody other than Tom is the killer and so it would be much more shocking and surprising when we find out that he's the killer. The novel does this very well where we're constantly getting new information and changing our suspicion of who the real killer is. 

In the film, we didn't get it as much. 

Despite these shortcomings in the story, I still like the movie and would still recommend it for people to watch, especially if they have not read the novel (although they really should). 

LESSON: If you’re going to have multiple POVs, make sure they’re all compelling and we see them more than once.