What you can see can hurt you.
Emily as: Rachel Watson
Genre(s): Drama | Thriller
Written by: Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay), Paula Hawkins (novel)
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Other Cast: Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans
Release Date: October 7, 2016
Production Budget: $45m
Total Worldwide Gross: $172.6m
Filming Locations: Ardsley and Irvington, New York
Reeling from a recent divorce and searching to preoccupy her days, Rachel Watson (Blunt) spends her weekday commute to and from Manhattan quietly gazing out the train windows. Every morning and evening, she relives memories from just outside the home she once shared with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux of The Leftovers, The Ten), who now lives there with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson of Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, upcoming The Snowman), and their baby.
To distract herself from a life that’s grown so aimless, Rachel develops an obsession with the occupants of another house on the route, 15 Beckett Road—a few doors down from where she used to reside. There, blissfully unaware that a stranger is longingly watching, the seemingly perfect couple Megan (Haley Bennett of The Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven) and Scott (Luke Evans of Dracula Untold, upcoming Beauty and the Beast) go about the business of suburban life.
For months, in between furtive sips of the liquor that’s become a constant companion, Rachel has stolen glimpses of the stunning Megan and handsome Scott as they drink morning coffee by their windows or laugh on their porch at nighttime—and imagined how idyllic their world must be. The seemingly carefree young woman is the portrait of everything that Rachel tried to be during her years with Tom, in a marriage from which she refuses to let go.
One day, on her way into the city, Rachel witnesses something so shocking in Megan and Scott’s backyard that it rocks her to the core. Soon after, when Megan goes missing and is feared dead, Rachel tells the police what she believes she has seen. But can Rachel trust what she thinks she witnessed, or is she entangled in the crime itself? When one voyeur crosses the dangerous line between concerned and obsessed, she will either find the real killer… or discover that there is innocent blood on her own hands.
Rachel: Look, I didn’t want you to worry that I couldn’t pay the rent…
Cathy: If you don’t have a job, then what do you do everyday?
Rachel: I… I ride the train.
Cathy: You what?
Rachel: I ride the train to New York and back.
Cathy: That’s what your alimony’s paying for? Tickets to nowhere? … That’s really fucking weird, Rachel!
Rachel: [Trying to remember] Okay. Okay. I got on the train. And then… I got off the train. I don’t know! It’s very unclear…
Det. Riley: I thought you didn’t know her.
Rachel: No. But I saw her.
Det. Riley: You saw her where?
Rachel: I saw her from the train. She was standing on the deck with this man.
Det. Riley: With her husband, Scott Hipwell?
Rachel: No. It wasn’t him. This man was different. And they were kissing.
Dr. Abdic: Do you want to tell me about them?
Rachel: Well, when I wake up, and when someone tells me what I’ve done, it just doesn’t feel like me or like something that I would do. I feel bad about it. But it’s like it’s so far removed that I have a… I just don’t feel bad enough.
Rachel: Because I’m afraid of myself.
Quoting: Emily Blunt
On her character: All you want is to try and understand the people you play. As the onion unravels with Rachel, you quickly realize she has a drinking problem and is incredibly untethered and unstable. Rachel’s riddled with guilt, loneliness and desperation, as well as the need for love and connection, and she finds a great deal of comfort and solace in the people she obsesses over. They seem like a match made in heaven, and they know a love she no longer has in her life. I have huge empathy for her.
On the film’s themes: I was fascinated by how they were filmically going to capture that sense of addiction and voyeurism, what we think we see and don’t, what we think we remember and don’t… and the blurry lines between all of those aspects. What I loved about the book and the script is that they articulately managed to depict broken, damaged women. You don’t see that in cinema very often, as women are often held in a male ideal. Both the book and the film strive away from that.
On her attraction to the role: I loved seeing the screenplay capture Rachel’s intensity, and the fact that it is told in a sort of blurry sense… because the lead character is an alcoholic and the most unreliable witness to a crime.
On her attraction to the role: I think what I loved about the book, and actually what I loved about the script, is that it articulately managed to depict women, damaged women, and you don’t see that in cinema very often. You see these women with all of their complications.
On the challenges of the role: It stretched me in ways that I haven’t been stretched before. I had to flex muscles I’ve never accessed. Trying to understand this addictive personality, that sense of being unable to put one foot in front of the other without relying on a drink, has been just an extraordinary experience.
On discovering the novel: I’d go into any airport or bookstore and saw that it was the No. 1 bestseller. I could see people reading it on the subway and on airplanes. So I was aware of the tsunami of interest before I was approached by the producers. When they asked if I was interested in coming in, that’s when I read the book. And I read it in two days.
On the differences between the novel and the film: Maintaining my accent for the film is a sort of ode to the book, and I think that Tate [Taylor] liked the idea of me being even more isolated. She feels like a fish out of water. It’s a lot of fun to play parts like that because they’re so different from you.
On the film’s visuals: In any thriller, you have to make sure you don’t come across as too moustache-twirling or Machiavellian. We all very much wanted it to feel modern, real, complicated and surprising. You’re also dealing with flashbacks, and you’ve got to find a very non-cheesy way to make those transitions work. That’s where Charlotte [Bruus Christensen, cinematographer] was just so thrilling to be around. She’s visually just a genius, and we needed her so very much because this is such a visual film. The camera was close the whole shoot, and it’s as if we danced together. Charlotte understood how to do that so elegantly.
On working with Rebecca Ferguson: Rebecca has the most beautiful, expressive face, and she’s able to reveal so much with so little. I’m thrilled she was cast as Anna because that could easily have been a derivative part—the new blonde wife in a cashmere sweater who’s the perfect mother. Rebecca brought a lot of the struggle of that life of being a stay-at-home mom.
On working with Haley Bennett: I was so excited that Haley was in the film. I remember seeing her in The Equalizer with Denzel Washington, who is arguably one of the best actors we’ve ever seen, and yet you can’t stop watching her. She brought all kinds of vulnerability and complexity to the character of Megan.
Quoting: Cast and Crew
Director Tate Taylor: She is Rachel in a stunning way. It [the setting] added to the loneliness and isolationism to have a person from the U.K. stuck without a life or a husband in America, and Emily pulls it off fabulously. Audiences will be blown away by her performance.
Producer Marc Platt: Emily has tremendous skill as an actor, and she was our first choice. We felt that she not only had the skill required, but in all of her characters, there’s something innately relatable. Rachel is very hard on herself, drinks heavily and is destructive in her behavior. Emily has the ability to play all those colors and complexities and darkness but still remain likable, understandable and accessible.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Director Tate Taylor, working from a intriguingly dark script by Erin Cressida Wilson, has made the best choice possible to portray Rachel Watson, the booze-addled, bleary-eyed, emotional wreck of the film’s title. That’s Emily Blunt, and she is perfection, playing the hell out of this blackout drunk and adding a touch of welcome empathy. Blunt digs into the role like an actress possessed – there’s not an ounce of vanity here, and she keeps her real English accent to portray a Brit transplant on the ropes in New York.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: The Girl on the Train may be too idiosyncratic and moody to get the credit it deserves, but if there’s any justice, Blunt should be up for awards consideration at the end of the year. She gives a remarkably invested and unflinching performance. She contains her natural wit, brightness and intelligence — she conceals her attractiveness — and encases herself in a physical condition and a psychological cloud. She piles on the damage, but she doesn’t play the damage. She plays the struggle to break through. It’s a performance of technical precision, emotional perception and inspiration.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: Blunt’s performance is a masochistic revel, but she’s such a tender and lyrical actress that she makes even Rachel’s lowball actions sympathetic. We can’t help but root for her, even when she seems to be a drunken destroyer with borderline personality disorder. At one point, she stands in a bathroom, smearing the mirror with lipstick, letting out the rage she feels at her ex-, and it’s a cathartic moment. […] Blunt, who plays half her scenes looking like she’s holding back tears (or maybe screams), is a luminous actress who’s been in need of a role that allows her to get past her slight decorousness, and this is that role. It should, at last, elevate her star.
Brian Truitt, USA Today: Blunt is completely up for the task of playing a woman who downs her troubles in drink, and she’s at her unhinged best when her puffy-cheeked, maniacal Rachel lashes out at her lot in life.
Stephanie Zacharek, Time: Blunt’s Rachel, her face puffy and splotchy from too much drinking, makes the movie watchable—she’s its most nuanced and sympathetic character. It’s wrenching to watch her nurse her resentment as she stares from the window of that train: quaffing her secret vodka from an adult sippy cup, she’s so sozzled she’s practically pickling her soul in self-loathing. Blunt gives Rachel multiple dimensions—we could never view her as just a stewy mess.
Awards and Nominations
Below is a list of all accolades Emily has received for her role in the film.
NOMINATED: British Academy Film Awards – Best Actress in a Leading Role
NOMINATED: North Texas Film Critics Association – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Screen Actors Guild Awards – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role