Combustible Celluloid
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With: Émilie Dequenne, Michel Blanc, Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Demy, Ronit Elkabetz, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jérémie Quaegebeur, Djibril Pavadé, Alain Cauchi
Written by: Odile Barski, Jean-Marie Besset, André Téchiné
Directed by: André Téchiné
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/18/2009

The Girl on the Train (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tracks of Her Tears

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director André Téchiné is intuitive and intelligent and not flashy, and even when he succumbs to "issue" movies like this and The Witnesses, he manages to make the movies come to life through his disarmingly small, human moments. His new film, The Girl on the Train, is much better than it may sound. It stars the stunning Émilie Dequenne, with her strong cheekbones and a generous, flowing mane of curly red hair. She plays Jeanne, a twentysomething who rollerblades around Paris and looks for a job with her tiny bit of experience.

She lives -- and gets along well -- with her mom, Louise (Catherine Deneuve). Louise learns that an old friend (flame?), named Bleistein (Michel Blanc), is working as a lawyer and Jeanne interviews for a job in his firm. At the same time, she meets the very aggressive Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and embarks upon an intense relationship with him.

Things get a bit complicated from there. Franck gets jobs for them both as caretakers, but there are drugs involved, and the job takes a turn for the worse. Then, we get a subplot about Bleistein's son Alex (Mathieu Demy), the son's Israeli ex-wife, Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), who works for Bleistein, and their 12-year-old son, Nathan (Jeremie Quaegebeur).

These folks are less a subplot, than they are there for atmosphere, and a certain kind of tension. After losing Franck, a desperate, depressed Jeanne gets the idea to pretend that she has been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on a subway car, even though her character is not Jewish. (This was apparently based on a real incident, as well as a play inspired by that incident.)

Her act causes a bit of trouble, but thankfully Téchiné does not focus on it; instead he's interested in the truthful reactions of the characters, their combination of hurt and relief. The most surprising and interesting reaction comes from young Nathan, though the nature of this reaction is better left for viewers to discover for themselves.

Best Buy Co, Inc.