The Girl on the Train A young woman chops her hair, slices at her skin, and scrawls swastikas in Magic Marker on her torso, then pretends that she was the… The Girl on the Train A young woman chops her hair, slices at her skin, and scrawls swastikas in Magic Marker on her torso, then pretends that she was the… 2010-01-22 Unrated PT105M Drama Emilie Dequenne Catherine Deneuve Nicolas Duvauchelle Strand Releasing
Movie Review

The Girl on the Train (2010)

MPAA Rating: Unrated
Catherine Deneuve, The Girl on the Train | TRAIN SPOTTING Émilie Dequenne and Catherine Deneuve play daughter and mother in The Girl on the Train
TRAIN SPOTTING Émilie Dequenne and Catherine Deneuve play daughter and mother in The Girl on the Train
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Limited Release: Jan 22, 2010; Rated: Unrated; Length: 105 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Emilie Dequenne; Distributor: Strand Releasing

A young woman chops her hair, slices at her skin, and scrawls swastikas in Magic Marker on her torso, then pretends that she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. The accusation, followed by the exposure of her lie, explodes into a media frenzy. André Téchiné's The Girl on the Train is based on an actual incident — a fabricated act of anti-Semitism that polarized France in 2004 — but Téchiné, the astringent director of Wild Reeds (1994), backs off from exploring any of the incident's most obvious ramifications. In The Girl on the Train, what do the French citizens make of this Tawana Brawley-style hoax? We haven't a clue. And why does the young woman, Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne), tell her lie in the first place?

Téchiné spends the opening hour of the movie setting up Jeanne as a Rollerblading, Bob Dylan-listening, underachieving 
 provincial princess who is far too close to her severe mother (Catherine Deneuve, turning off the charm), and who drifts into an affair with a sweet-talking jerk of a wrestler (Nicolas Duvauchelle). When the relationship falls apart — violently — Jeanne is lost, and after weeping at a Holocaust documentary on TV, she stages the fake attack. (And she isn't even Jewish.)

Émilie Dequenne, the stern young star of the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta (1999), now projects an eroticized bourgeois-feline narcissism reminiscent of Sandrine Bonnaire in the '80s. She's a captivating presence, but what Jeanne does never 
 totally adds up, and there's no indication that Téchiné intends it to; he wants the audience to fill in the blanks of her motivation. That puts us in a rather squirmy position, since Jeanne's lie has a racial-
political dimension that we're barely even asked to acknowledge. Téchiné has made a half-captivating, half-baffling tease of a movie in which one woman's destructive whim has the effect of making anti-Semitism look like a myth. It's a distortion that Téchiné, with a passivity bordering on perversity, does nothing to dispel. B-

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Originally posted Jan 20, 2010 Published in issue #1087 Jan 29, 2010 Order article reprints