Complex story of a hate crime

Posted: April 23, 2010

In constant motion - on her roller blades, zagging along the Seine, in the commuter train that links Paris with the home she shares with her mother - Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne) has a restlessness that's palpable. Even when she sits, eyes closed, listening to music, the unease is there.

In The Girl on the Train, a complex yet clearly drawn piece from veteran director André Téchiné, Jeanne is the central figure in a story about the chasm between generations, about people adrift, and, most pointed, about the dark legacy of the Holocaust, even now in 21st-century Europe.

Catherine Deneuve, whose collaborations with Téchiné include Thieves and Scene of the Crime, is Louise, Jeanne's mother, a widow - Jeanne's father died when she was 5. The two women are close, but when Jeanne meets a competitive wrestler (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who won't leave her alone until he gets her e-mail address or phone number, a relationship ensues. Soon Jeanne is packing up and moving out.

The Girl on the Train, divided into two sections, pivots on an alleged hate crime: Jeanne files a report with the police stating that she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on the commuter line. The attack becomes national news, but its veracity is soon in doubt.

Based on the true story of a Paris woman who similarly cried wolf (or Jew hater), The Girl on the Train is about more than the media maelstrom and societal angst that such an event triggers. Téchiné explores the circumstances, and the psychology, that may have provoked Jeanne to fabricate this tale. And how she and her mother become entwined with a successful Jewish lawyer (Michel Blanc) and his family in the process.

Presented with an economy and emotional cool that add to, rather than subtract from, its dramatic impact, The Girl on the Train reverberates with a quiet, seductive power.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.

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