THE MAN ON THE TRAIN is one of those light French crime thrillers whose storyline has little or nothing to do with mystery or crime, but focuses instead on everyday character relationships or chance encounters.
The movie opens with a mysterious middle-aged man, Milan, who arrives in a small French town off the main tourist stops. He stops in a drugstore to get some aspirin for his headache, but the aspirin requires water. An older man, a retired teacher named Manesquier, offers him a drink of water at his large house, inherited from his mother. The town’s hotel, however, is closed for the night, so Manesquier lets Milan stay at his house until Saturday.
Saturday is a big day for both men. The teacher is scheduled to have open heart surgery, and Milan is scheduled to rob the town’s bank with several compadres. At first, the bank robber is irritated by the teacher’s talkative ways, but soon he finds himself wishing he could trade places with the recluse. Meanwhile, the teacher learns that Milan keeps three guns in his belongings, and Milan confides in him abut the bank robbery. Now, Manesquier is wishing that he could trade places with the bank robber.
THE MAN ON THE TRAIN is about the regret of wasted lives. At one point, the teacher criticizes his sister and himself for letting their lives become so dull and unchallenging. The idea of changing one’s life to make it better becomes a wistful, unattainable dream at the end, however. Despite this humanist attitude and some foul language and brief violence, viewers may enjoy the budding friendship that grows between these two unlikely characters, played with distinction by Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday. Of course, the unexamined life is not worth living, but there is hope, love, and faith in Jesus Christ, whose Gospel can provide deep, fruitful meaning for damaged lives filled with regret.
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(HH, B, LLL, VV, S, N, A, D, M) Strong humanist worldview but with some redeeming moral qualities; 18 obscenities and two light profanities; bank robbers hold guns on customers, bank robber gets shot in chest after stepping in the way of police bullets intended for his cohort, and implied heart surgery scenes (but nothing really graphic); implied fornication and older man mentions masturbating experiences as a youth; upper male nudity and rear female nudity in painting; alcohol use; smoking; and, bank robbery and knowingly hiding a criminal.