Elevate Difference

The Girl on the Train

Upon watching The Girl on the Train, it may not be immediately obvious that this is based on a real event: the 2004 scandal in which Marie-Leonie Leblanc fabricated an anti-Semitic attack by six Arab youth. In fact, the film’s lead character, Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne), seems like a typical teen in need of inspiration.

Minutes into the film, a man (Nicolas Duvauchelle) appears alongside her, rollerblading, and promises to be the thing that she has been missing. Cautiously, she allows him into her life, even after her mother (played with regal poise by Catherine Deneuve) notes an element of aggression.

As their affair unravels, it’s easy to empathize with the shocked Jeanne as she obeys the man's request that she leave. She runs home, and watches television with her mother. As her mother sits beside her, Jeanne appears to be watching a historical program about the Holocaust. At first glance, it appears that she is sympathizing with the victims of the atrocities.

Philippe Sarde’s fluid music arrangements provide sensations of desire and confusion, which are expressed by most of the characters in the film. In addition, the gentle tone is established by the supporting cast, which features Michel Blanc as Samuel Bleistein, Mathieu Demy as Alex, and the enigmatic Ronit Elkabetz as Judith. Director André Téchiné’s inclusion of the larger historical context of racism achieves the film’s outstanding quality: a compassionate depiction of Jeanne’s misguided tactic for being loved.

Written by: Maria Guzman, September 2nd 2010