The Girl on the Train movie review: Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne) is a young woman, striking but otherwise without qualities. Her mother (Catherine Deneuve) tries to get her a job in the office of a lawyer, Bleistein, her lover years ago. Jeanne fails the interview but falls into a relationship with Franck, a wrestler whose dreams and claims of being in a legitimate business partnership Jeanne is only too happy to believe. When Franck (Nicolas Duvachelle) is arrested, he turns on Jeanne for her naivety; she's stung and seeks attention by making up a story of an attack on a train. Is there any way out for her? In a subplot, Bleistein's grandson, Nathan, prepares for his bar mitzvah and, through an encounter with Jeanne, experiences intimations of manhood.
The buzz: The incident may not have received prime news play worldwide, but in France it brought the country's rising undercurrent of anti-Semitism into the public consciousness. Then-president Jacques Chirac condemned the act and expressed his support for the alleged victim, who wasn't even Jewish.
The verdict: Lots of hot-button things going on here: racism, acceptance, identity. They certainly drum up interest, and director André Téchiné (“Wild Reeds”) attacks the build-up with controlled gusto. He creates an acute sense of foreboding as Jeanne—confused, aimless, impressionable—wanders into self-destructive scenarios with her scam artist of a boyfriend. Sure, you know the outcome of it all, but Téchiné still keeps you wondering how Jeanne gets there. She turns out to be nothing more than a sad, impetuous girl who cried wolf—a meaningless stunt devised by an attention-starved brat. The film's conclusion comes across as way too simplistic in its consideration of a malicious act masking far deeper complexities. At least Téchiné's steady stewardship makes the journey worthwhile.