Movie review: The Girl on the Train (La Fille du RER) (2009) directed by Andre Techine

This movie has nothing to do with The Girl on the Train directed by Tate Taylor and  released in 2016. Nothing whatsoever. Still I do admit I found it while searching for the former. I don’t regret it, to be honest.

Movie info:

Jeanne Fabre (Emilie Dequenne) is an attractive late-teen loner. Freshly out of secondary school she spends her time rollerblading through Paris and job-hunting, a nuisance she endures only to indulge her widowed mother, Louise (Catherine Deneuve). In

order to provide financially for them both Louise runs a day-care center for little kids out of their house. One day, watching a television news story about anti-semitic attacks in France, Louise recognizes Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc), a prestigious Jewish lawyer who used to be in love with her. Louise decides to arrange a job interview for her daughter at Bleistein’s law firm hoping that the girl will be given a much-needed leg-up.

Around the same time Jeanne is picked up by a nice, young guy on the street. His name is Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), he is a student and he does wrestling on a professional level. He claims he’s fallen in love with her at first sight. Believing Jeanne has a job, Franck finds himself a temporary position as the caretaker in an electrical shop. He is also allowed to use the flat above the shop and share it with his girl. Unfortunately the place turns out to contain hidden drug stash and Franck is badly wounded in a fight with a drug dealer. The police arrest him as he clearly had known about the drugs. The man rejects Jeanne when she visits him at the hospital, having found out that she was lying the whole time about her job and many other things. He blames her for his last misfortune as well (how very sweet of him btw).

Heartbroken, Jeanne returns to her maman’s house, draws three swastikas on her body, gives herself some minor cuts and cuts off part of her hair. Then she goes to a police station and alleges to have been brutally attacked by six hoodlums on the suburban RER train because they thought she was Jewish (which she is not). The incident becomes a huge national cause célèbre—though Louise quietly suspects her daughter has fabricated it from the beginning to the end. Well – has she?

My impressions:

Congratulations, André Téchiné. If any other director was given such a script material he or she would shoot a mediocre movie at best, a very boring one at worst. You managed to present a compelling piece of cinema. The film kept me interested despite the fact that the director didn’t try almost any tricks to make the story more dramatic or more sensational. Yes, we more or less are said from the very beginning that we are going to watch a movie about an inveterate liar – almost no mystery here.

Personally for me Jeanne was an epitome of a certain generation, an anti-heroine if I ever saw one. She is neither especially bright nor very interested in doing anything with her life apart from having fun. Her tolerant, hard-working mother doesn’t know how to encourage her girl to start a life, find a job (as it is evident the girl is not a student material), set goals, move forward. Jeanne prefers rollerblading through Parisian streets (and who would blame her) and making do on meager earnings of her mum to any kind of a career. She has a roof over her head, food and clothes, doesn’t she? She even has a small private swimming pool in the backyard of her Parisian home. Could you ask for more?

Actually you could. Jeanne’s constant lying is an indicative that deep down she knows that ‘something is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark’. Of course she would like to be a ‘better’ girl – for instance that successful secretary of a rich lawyer who knows languages, can spell correctly even difficult words and spends every summer in Italy. Acquiring a boyfriend sometimes can have such an effect on young, brainless creatures. When the said boyfriend realizes that his divine Jeanne has been lying through her teeth most of the time, he starts to blame her for everything that has ever gone wrong for him, including the last unfortunate stabbing. Jeanne reacts in the only way she knows: by creating another ‘alternate reality’ version of herself.

In order to draw attention to her personal drama and also maybe woo her lover back she fashions herself as a hapless victim of a brutal, pointless anti-semitic attack. One problem: she is truly pathetic in her efforts. Self-inflicted face cuts don’t persuade even her mother, let alone the police; what’s more, Jeanne draws wrong swastikas on her lovely, flat belly (straight instead of slanted) and she completely forgets about CCTV cameras in every train wagon and station…Why? What’s wrong with that girl who, even if a bit short of money overall seems to live a privileged, careless life plenty of her peers would dream of? Is her aimless wandering through life going to change? The movie suggests plenty of possible scenarios but never gives straight answers – you know those French, they are masters of elision ;p.

One small fly in that excellent ointment – I would personally cut out all the sex scenes from the movie. They seemed cheesy and simply gratuitous to me.

Final verdict:

Ostensibly a story about nothing – until it suddenly becomes a modern treatise on the vagaries of the human heart. Highly recommended for a quiet autumn evening. Plus scenic Paris – without the catacombs (quelle domage!) but still lovely enough to warm you up and make you dream of summer!


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7 Responses to Movie review: The Girl on the Train (La Fille du RER) (2009) directed by Andre Techine

  1. heidenkind says:

    Is this based on a book? I’ve come across a book with the same title (not The Girl on the Train, that you mentioned before) on audiobook and wondered

    • I found only vague remarks (the direct quote in French is below).
      “De cette histoire extraordinaire, l’écrivain Jean-Marie Besset tire, en 2006, une pièce de théâtre – R.E.R. -, avant de collaborer au scénario du film, lointainement inspiré de cette pièce, qu’André Téchiné livre aujourd’hui sur le même sujet.”
      It seems there’s a play and a book about it.

  2. blodeuedd says:

    She wouldn’t be the only one that draws them wrong. She sounds unlikable

  3. Carole Rae says:

    I almost thought about it….but….meh.

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