The Girl on the Train (La Fille du RER) Reviews
The film focuses on Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne), a pretty but troubled young woman who floats aimlessly throughout life, with her supportive mother (Deneuve) always in the wings. Jeanne's life suddenly becomes a little more exciting when brooding wrester/thug Franck (Nicolas Duvaunchelle) charms her. She moves in with them, they begin dating, and then they get a sweet gig working as caretakers for a warehouse that actually is filled with drugs (which is unknown to Jeanne). After Franck is stabbed by an impatient junkie, Jeanne barely escapes getting arrested, and even worse, Franck wants nothing to do with her. If we didn't know Jeanne was fragile before, now we do, because suddenly, after hearing many stories similar on TV, she fabricates a story in which a group of strangers attack her because they believe she's Jewish. But why does she do it?
At one glance, "La Fille du RER" works well in the sense that it's realistic, and it makes for a somewhat involving piece of drama. Téchiné directs every scene with style and flair, but never overdoes it, while the score is unsettling but just as mysterious as the characters themselves. From a technical standpoint, the film is gorgeous, but it doesn't have much more to offer than that.
Dequenne and Deneuve are both excellent though; Dequenne manages to make Jeanne seem a bit troubled without ever once overdoing it, while Deneuve it heartbreaking as the caring mother that doesn't know how to deal with the mess her daughter has made. They make use of what little they have to work with, and it's disappointing they couldn't have been in a better film than this.
The pacing and story just feels imbalance-- almost 3/4 of the film are taken just to explain the relationship between Jeanne and Franck, and Jeanne and her mother, and how it could have molded her into a crazed mess. By the time the actual "hate-crime" idea comes along, there's a mere half-hour left, which doesn't give the viewer any time to fully absorb what's happening. The topic itself it subtly skimmed over, and resolved so quickly that hardly any drama occurs. Everything in the film feels way undercooked-- even with just twenty more minutes, it could've broadened its ideas a little bit and eventually become a better film. But instead, it's stuck in a world where style comes over substance.
"La Fille du RER" is a decent French thriller, but it isn't as good as it should be, considering the subject matter. Only for the biggest fans of either Deneuve or Téchiné, or both.
Then Jeanne meets Franck, a rough athlete that seduces her until they move in together, but then their relationship turns bad, and Jeanne ends up pretending she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. I said this was a story based on actual facts, the facts are ones that made news in 2004, about this woman who said she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack by six African men who she said pulled her hair, slashed her clothes, made swastikas on her body and pushed over the stroller where her baby was.
You can see how these news would shock the world, the then-president of Frances, Jacques Chirac condemned the attack, Israeli authorities urged the Jews of France to leave to avoid further incidents like that. But then, the victim of the attack, who wasn't even Jewish, came forward saying that she had made up the whole thing.
The film doesn't focus on the political issues and further complications and extended consequences of this, Mr. Téchiné, with whom I share a first name, is a filmmaker that likes it better to explore more the emotions and psychological complexities beneath it all, he doesn't do it like a filmmaker that pretends to understand, he's just a filmmaker that likes to illustrate. The scenes in which Jeanne rollerblades to nowhere may seem as just that, but they also feel like much more.
Téchiné divides his film into two very distinct parts, the circumstances and the consequences, and he does a fine job exploring the story, introducing a Jewish family along the way. Yes, this is a fact-based story, but it doesn't focus on the lie, it focuses on the woman, on why she did why she did, on how much she wanted love, and on every thing else that can be read between the lines of the obvious things other filmmakers would have rather focused on, and in that way this one succeeds.
"When she lies, she is in her own world."
"She is quite rebellious, I would say."
Right there, I see another layer of the girl. Then she appears on her rollerblade. A close shot of her sliding on the street shows another meaning of "the girl on the train."
Subtle yet profound.