Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 9:00 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘The Girl on the Train’

1 Star — Empty/Morally Bankrupt

Most of us hear the words “extreme poverty” and think of someone living in the slums of Calcutta, lacking in money. What rarely comes to mind is the fact that many people live in a world of economic wealth but are nevertheless trapped in a world of extreme emotional and spiritual poverty.

Much of this is embedded in some of the richest communities in America. This condition can lead to an even greater hopelessness and nagging despair. The Girl on the Train is a story of such a person.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is emotionally poverty-stricken and finds herself traveling on the commuter train up the Hudson River out of New York City on a daily basis. We assume she is returning from work, but much of what is in this story is based on false assumptions. It is the unfolding of a good story that leaves you hanging until the very end.

It is also, unfortunately, the depressing image of a life devolving into deep pain and depression resulting from a life void of emotional and spiritual honesty and depth.  Ironically, it is set in the delusional world of some peoples’ “American Dream”, living the good life in Upstate New York in a beautiful Hudson River Valley home.

What Rachel sees from the train are images of other people’s lives, for good or for bad. Based on her own emotional deprivation, she projects stories on these people she sees and interprets their lives based on her own pain and suffering. Some of it is true, and some isn’t.

What she doesn’t see is love and hope, but rather images of her own disintegrating life. Rachel has gone through a painful divorce and her husband has left her for the younger woman with whom he has been having an affair.

Without giving away all of the twists and turns of Rachel’s life, needless to say everyone in her life is living out their existence more or less in the same level of emotional poverty.  It is hard to think rationally about what a vibrant family life could be when everyone around you accepts as “normal” the fact that lying, cheating, adultery and alcoholism are just the social norms of an upscale social life.

Rachel’s husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), is onto his third wife and umpteenth sexual liaison in the office. Rachel, herself, has numbed her view of the world with booze, and her social isolation among wealthy friends has given her spiritual blindness.

In the middle of all of this depression is a well-written murder mystery that gives the viewer some sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, you have to be satisfied with depression and murder or you won’t find this movie very entertaining.

Rachel’s life does have a modicum of hope as she comes to grip with her painful past. We don’t know what happens to her next, but she is moving in the right direction  Her signs of healing are witnessed in her more realistic views of what she sees and projects from the train.

More important, there is a realization that life can change and you do not have to be imprisoned in your own bondage of depression, alcoholism and emotional abuse. It is the one sign of hope in a life lived badly.

Discussion

» In your own experience with wealth, what do you see money being able to provide and what can it not? How do you see wealth becoming an imprisoning or isolating reality?

» When a person has no faith community that lifts their head above this world they often become locked into the brokenness of the human condition. How has your faith community, or lack thereof, had an impact on your life?

» Just as intelligence comes in many forms so does poverty. To be “rich in things but poor in soul” is the way one Christian hymn poetically describes the teachings of Jesus. How do you enrich your soul?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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