André Téchiné's 'The Girl on the Train' (La fille du RER) focuses on a naive girl Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne) who fabricates a story about being attacked on a suburban Paris train by black and Arab youths who supposedly mistook her for a Jew. The story is based on a real event that took place in France in 2004, adapted for the stage by Jean-Marie Besset as 'RER', and written for the screen by Besset, Odile Barski, and director Téchiné. Téchiné, stating that 'the story became the mirror of all French fears, a revelation of what we call the `collective unconscious.' How an individual's lie is transformed into truth with respect to the community at large and its fears', 'The Girl on the Train' dissects the psychological circumstances and consequences surrounding a bold lie in a rich drama, concentrating on the permutations such an act has one all concerned.
Jeanne lives with her single mother Louise (Catherine Deneuve) who manages the family finances as a childcare provider. Jeanne spends the greater part of her time roller skating and it is on one of her excursions that she meets the rather mysterious Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a young wrestler who immediately attempts to win Jeanne's attention and affection despite Jeanne's insecurities. They eventually respond to the mutual chemistry and Franck searches for a way to help Jeanne out of financial difficulties: they become caretakers in a warehouse home, which is unbeknownst to Jeanne, a drug trafficking site. An incident occurs when a 'buyer' shows up and Franck is stabbed in defending his caretaker job and Jeanne's future. Jeanne is distraught but when she visits Franck in the hospital, Franck blames Jeanne for his bad luck and rebuffs her - he must now serve prison time for his involvement in the drug game.
Now, torn between her loss of money, her new 'home', and the love of Franck, Jeanne plans a manner of striking back: she slices her skin, clips her hair, and paints swastikas on her abdomen and reports that she has been attacked by anti-Semites. Louise seeks the assistance of an old flame who is now the important Jewish lawyer Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc) - man with whom Jeanne had unsuccessfully interviewed for a job - and what Louise thought would be a protection for both Franck and Jeanne results in Jeanne's confession that she fabricated the entire incident, a factor that disrupts the lives of all those affected by the lie, especially the family of Bleistein already teetering on disintegration due to the rocky marriage of his son and daughter-in-law and the preparation for the grandson's contested Bar Mitzvah.
Téchiné knows how to take seemingly ordinary people and circumstances and show the profound effect of evil wherever it raises its head. The film is enhanced by the verismo photography by Julien Hirsch and the apropos musical score by Philippe Sarde. While this film is not quite up to the standards of Téchiné's films such as 'Wild Reeds', 'My Favorite Season', 'Changing Times' or 'Strayed', it still maintains that realistic surface beneath which lies the real grit of life. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp, August 10
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About the reviewer
Grady Harp (gradyharp)
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Jeanne lives in a house in the suburbs of Paris with her mother Louise. The two women get on well together. Louise earns her living by looking after children. Jeanne is half-heartedly looking for a job. Louise harbors the hope of getting her daughter a job with Samuel Bleistein, a famous lawyer whom she knew in her youth. Jeanne and Bleistein's worlds are light years apart. However, they'll be set on a collision course because of an incredible lie that Jeanne invents, a lie that grows into the biggest news and political story of the day.