One can’t help thinking that if the novel of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN hadn’t managed to strike a chord with the reading public at the exact right moment and become the thriller du jour, that it would have got the Ruth Rendell treatment with an adaptation on ITV on a Sunday night at nine.
Do you remember all those Ruth Rendell (or I think perhaps more accurately her pseudonym, Barbara Vine) adaptations from the 90s?
Stand-alone thrillers with damaged characters and dark twists, all set in a domestic milieu. Perhaps it’s because I’d read the book and so had already pre-envisaged North London environs, or maybe I was just conscious that half the cast was British (with Emily Blunt using her own accent) and so most of them would easily have fitted into the cast of an ITV adaptation, Or maybe it was just that the film didn’t feel particularly cinematic, that made me think that this was a little TV thriller which had been needlessly inflated.
(As a side note, watching this as someone whose read the book, with Mrs Jameson as someone who hadn’t, made for an interesting experience. I was watching it with an eye on the plot mechanics, knowing which red herrings would be thrown in and what misdirection would take place. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure they’d done that brilliant a job on it. But viewing this film when you already know the plot is clearly a hindrance, as Mrs Jameson observed at the end that they’d done an excellent job of keeping the whodunnit a mystery. So what do I know?)
I guess the best film to compare this to was GONE GIRL, another female-centric thriller du jour given the a Hollywood treatment. But whereas that felt cinematic and like it was adding to the material, this felt just like an ITV adaptation of it. The performances were fine, the script was fine, the direction was fine, but nothing screaming that it really needed to be on the big screen.
Even the locale, which is the more obvious result of the Hollywood-investment, didn’t quite work. The houses were set back too far from the track for you to really imagine that the girl/woman on the train would have seen so much.
Poky North London is the geography the book gave itself, and that setting would have worked so much better in the TV adaptation this film could so happily have been.