Station Agent, The

Reviewed By Dennis Swennumson
Posted 07/04/04 19:18:17

"An honest film unfortunately overlooked."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

“The Station Agent” is about three people experiencing their own unique stages of loneliness. Considering one of its overall themes of kindness, the film could have easily played like a TV news magazine segment or worse, a syndicated talk show about how we can “understand” those different from “normal” people. Thankfully writer-director Thomas McCarthy aims higher, he gives the film an outright feeling of honesty devoid of the cheesiness that other movies and TV shows usually present when dealing with similar subject matter. “The Station Agent” is born from the notion that the small things in life are true avenues to happiness.

Peter Dinklage (most memorable as the children’s book author in “Elf”) plays Fin McBride, a man with a passionate fascination for trains who inherits an old train depot. Every outing for Fin feels like a circus expedition, people can’t get over the sight of his dwarfism. When his employer and only friend dies, leaving him the depot, he sees it as a good chance for escape into self-appointed solitude. His plan ultimately backfires; he eventually meets the man running the neighboring coffee and hot dog stand, and reluctantly begins a simple friendship. Fin also meets the acquaintance of a woman named Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) through a chance and potentially dangerous encounter- twice. The plot moves forward as we watch their collective friendship develop as they progress past their initial assumptions and first impressions.

We learn Olivia is an artist, coping with the separation from her husband she still loves. Fin is a quiet kind of character whose feelings can be read from his demeanor (credit Dinklage’s great performance), Joe is more outspoken and energetic but she is the more mysterious personality in the group. She’s the motherly figure to balance out the sharp contrast between Joe and Fin. Apparently they get along fine, enjoying normal dinners and mastering the hobby of train chasing. These aren’t happy go lucky people however; when certain questions about the dynamics of the relationships are brought to attention they become defensive and uncomfortable. These are characters that all know the pain of disappointment and rejection and are more than cautious to experience it again. All three leads, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson and Peter Dinklage achieve noteworthy performances.

There’s something special in Peter Dinklage, this is an actor who unfortunately seems all too familiar with the lack sensitivity society gives the character he plays. He speaks lines like “I’m just a normal, boring person,” with an almost autobiographical tone. The film repeatedly examines the issue of Fin’s physical stature, but where other movies would typically try to push an agenda with an outright feeling of urgency, “The Station Agent” simply portrays one man’s experiences with a society that most often lacks understanding. The movie’s quality is affirmed in a scene that takes place in a bar could have easily ended with a sense of blatant manipulation, but McCarthy fortunately steers clear of a resolution that most would expect.

“The Station Agent” is an inherently sad movie with doses of optimism throughout, the kind of optimism that many of us need to keep going.

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