The Girl on the Train
May 18, 2010
Andre Techine is among some of the best post-French New Wave filmmakers and is known for his elegantly-shot films that explore the complexities of human emotions. Arguably, he’s best known for My Favorite Season (1993) and particularly Wild Reeds (1994), which won all kinds of awards and received plenty of critical acclaim. His latest film, The Girl on the Train (2009), is based on a real event that took place in France in 2004, and explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter.
Jeanne (Dequenne) is a young French woman who enjoys spending her time rollerblading around Paris. Her mother (Deneuve) encourages her to get a job but she doesn’t show much interest in employment. One day, she crosses paths with a fellow rollerblader, a young man named Franck (Duvauchelle). He tries to impress her by conning a storeowner out of one of his overpriced pieces of luggage. They start dating which develops into a pretty serious relationship. Her mother isn’t too crazy about Franck because he’s a wrestler (of the classic Olympic variety). Jeanne and Franck start living together and everything seems fine until they get mixed up in some trouble that changes their lives forever. Devastated as a result, Jeanne wakes up one day and fabricates a story that she was attacked by several youths on the train in an apparent anti-Semitic act. The rest of the film plays out the ramifications of this fiction.
Emilie Dequenne is quite good as the emotionally complex Jeanne. Techine’s film explores her motivation to create a hate crime. Does she crave attention? Does she suffer emotional problems? Is she bitter at not getting a job as a secretary at a Jewish law firm? The always reliable Catherine Deneuve is excellent as Jeanne’s understandably concerned mother. Even though they are quite close, she doesn’t know what Jeanne is going through. To be fair, she is keeping her true feelings from her mother. The relationship between these two women is believably portrayed by Dequenne and Deneuve.
Andre Techine doesn’t judge his characters – instead, he leaves that to the audience based on their actions and behaviour. Are Jeanne’s actions a desperate cry for attention, for some kind of love no matter how misguided? Not many films examine the relationship between a mother and her daughter in such, rich and interesting detail, thanks to the smart screenplay and the performances of this talented cast.
Just the theatrical trailer.