The Girl on the Train is similar to films like The Child and The Son in that it sets up a situation and then sees how people would behave in that given situation. This is a film of two halves even to the point of being broken down into two chapters. The first part shows what has been happening in the life of Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne) as she finds a new boyfriend (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and moves in with him as part of a caretaking duo. But there's something a bit suspicious about him. Maybe she should have worked this out when he plays a particularly nasty practical joke on her - I'd have been out of the door like a shot - but she sticks with the shifty little guy. Suffice to say things go wrong and Jeanne pretends to have been part of an anti-semitic attack on a train.
The second chapter deals with the consequences. At one point a young lad asks Jeanne why she did what she did. She doesn't know. I can't say I do either. I don't think that it would have been my course of action if I'd been in her position (if I was seeking attention I would buy a wide-brimmed pink felt hat, a fur coat, cigars and a chihuahua and then prance about, to a suitable disco soundtrack, through the back streets of Grimsby, that'd get a fair bit of attention) yet her choice to be a total liar does tie together lots of things that have been happening in her life. It's a shame that the boyfriend thread of the story seems to get lost though.
You then get to see people being people and dealing with the predicament they're in. It's interesting in its own way but is never convincingly gripping. There is a fair amount of following Jeanne around, she's normally rollerblading so the camera looks back at her as she skates along, but it's not quite as much fun as following a woodwork teacher around for ages and ages. And ages (The Son).
I've got quite a binary character, 0 or 1, on or off, right or wrong, but this film actually managed to throw up some interesting grey areas: Is the boyfriend really that dodgy? Is it better to keep quiet about it all being a lie? And is Jeanne really to blame for the way that the incident is sensationalised? If you watch it, you can make up your own mind.
So what we have here is a well-acted (it's got Émilie Dequenne in it, what were you expecting?) slice of understated French drama set against a backdrop of anti-semetic attacks. I still find it quite hard to buy into Jeanne's actions, but seeing as though it's based on a real-life incident, people can obviously be driven to do these things. I found it entertaining enough and thought-provoking at times but it's not one of my favourites, although due to the quality nature of the film-making on show, I'm sure that there will be people out there who like this a lot more than I do. Maybe you are one of those people?
If you like this you could also try:
The Child, The Son, Rosetta.