The Girl on the Train (Strand Releasing, NR)

Director André Téchiné takes a surprising point of view, veering away from condemning the media and taking a closer look at how it affects the people around the main character.

 

Despite having a credible list of films under her belt over the past ten years, actress Émilie Dequenne will always be remembered for her screen debut in the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta, for which she won the Best Actress prize at Cannes. In the title role, Dequenne played a tomboy-ish teenage girl in a rather desperate situation, laid off from her factory job and living with her irresponsible, alcoholic mother. Comprised mainly of close-ups shots with a camera that never seemed to leave her side, Dequenne delivered a devastating performance as a young woman fighting against the crushing weight of poverty. In The Girl on the Train, Dequenne once again plays a young woman struggling to find a job, though the circumstances are certainly different.

When she’s not spending time with her mother Louise (Catherine Deneuve), Jeanne (Dequenne) spends her days rollerblading through the streets of Paris. Louise makes her living by running a small daycare out of their home; Jeanne is currently unemployed, and it seems as though she’s never had a real job. Louise finds an online listing for a clerical job at the law office of Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc), a powerful attorney with a great deal of media attention due to his involvement in the cases of anti-Semitic hate crimes. By coincidence, Louise knew Samuel from her youth, as he was in the army with her late husband and even had a bit of a “crush,” as she puts it, on her. Jeanne bombs the interview with Samuel’s assistant (and former daughter-in-law) Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), but it doesn’t phase her much, as she’s been spending time with a roguish boy (Nicolas Duvauchelle) she met on the street.

A series of unfortunate circumstances leads Jeanne to commit the driving act of the film, in which she lies to the police claiming to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack despite the fact that she’s not Jewish. She explains that the attackers saw a business card for Bleistein (clearly a Jewish last name) in her bag. Director André Téchiné takes his time to build up to the act, which takes place about midway through the film, and spends the rest of the film examining Jeanne’s strange psychological trauma following the “incident.” Téchiné takes a surprising point of view, veering away from condemning the media and taking a closer look at how it affects the people around Jeanne. While the resolution feels a bit rushed, there’s plenty to admire about The Girl on the Train. | Joe Bowman

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