“You can’t avoid the puns with this movie — she’s a train wreck,” director Tate Taylor says of Rachel Watson, the unemployed alcoholic at the center of his new thriller, The Girl on the Train. Based on Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, the film stars Emily Blunt as the emotionally damaged Rachel, who develops a voyeuristic obsession with a couple — whom she dubs Jason and Jess (Luke Evans and Hayley Bennett) — that she spies during her daily commute, a journey that just so happens to take her past the home her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) shares with his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson).
Rachel has dreamed up an elaborate fantasy life for “Jason and Jess,” but her illusions are shattered when she accidentally witnesses an act of betrayal, followed shortly thereafter by the young woman’s disappearance. Rachel inserts herself into the investigation, but her motives are murky. “Rachel does things that we all think, and we all wish we could do,” says Taylor (The Help).
Although Gone Girl comparisons are inevitable — yes, it’s a female-powered mystery anchored by an unreliable narrator adapted from a wildly popular book — Rachel has little in common with Amy Dunne. The character is grappling not only with her addiction, but also with a profound sense of isolation. While the book is set in and around London, the film shifts the location to Manhattan and its tranquil suburbs. Rachel is still a Brit, though.
“It adds another layer of loneliness,” Taylor says. “She’s trying to reclaim or redefine herself, and yet she’s not in her native land.”
The Girl on the Train arrives in theaters Oct. 7.