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The Girl on the Train
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller based on Paula Hawkins' best-selling novel. It's about Rachel (Emily Blunt), a bitter ex-wife and blackout alcoholic who fixates on a seemingly happy couple she watches from the train. Then the woman (Haley Bennett) goes missing, and Rachel wakes up covered in blood, unable to remember the night before. Expect tense, violent confrontations, as well as graphic scenes of people fighting for their lives. Drinking is constant but not glamorized: Rachel is often shown sloppily, belligerently drunk and horribly hung over. Characters have sex in bed, outdoors, and the shower, though sensitive nudity is limited to a non-sexual shot of a naked woman shown from behind. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and more.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a serious alcoholic who's fixated on her ex-husband (Justin Theroux), his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson), their baby, and their seemingly perfect life. Every day Rachel rides the train right past her old home -- now their home -- intently looking for clues about the life she's missing out on. She's also become fixated on a couple that lives a few doors down. They seem just as happy together, until one day the wife (Haley Bennett) goes missing, and Rachel wakes up covered in blood, with no recollection of what she did the night before.
Is it any good?
This thriller is atmospheric and suspenseful, like the best-selling Paula Hawkins novel it's based on. And it has a strong star in Blunt, who carries the weight of Rachel's alcohol dependency, an awful cocktail mixed with grief and self-hatred. But the film lacks heft. It captures the escape that voyeurism provides -- who among us hasn't looked into apartments, cars, or, yes, trains as they pass by, wondering about the lives of the people in them? But its heroes and villains are painted with a one-dimensional brush, either evil and angry, icy (usually the female characters), or simply a big hot mess. (This might explain the unintended audience laughs at inopportune moments.)
It almost feels like a lot of The Girl on the Train's potential was left on the cutting room floor, taken out for brevity or simplicity. But characters like these deserve complex treatment. And audiences need more than just the (expected) twist in the end if you want to leave them puzzling over a movie after the credits roll. What we get instead is an interesting enough, creepy enough experience, but with a healthy dash of "seen this before."
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the violence in this movie compare to what you've seen in other thrillers and/or horror movies? Do some kinds of violence have more impact than others?
How does Rachel demonstrate empathy for the woman she fixates on? Does that make her a more appealing/sympathetic character? Are we intended to like her?
If you've read the book: How closely does the film follow it? What's different? Why do you think the filmmakers decided to make those changes?
What do you think about the way couples are portrayed in the film? Can you ever really know what someone else's relationship is really like in private?
- In theaters: October 7, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 17, 2017
- Cast: Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux
- Director: Tate Taylor
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual content, language and nudity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.