The Station Agent (2003) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
291 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
a genuine charmer
Roland E. Zwick12 December 2004
Thomas McCarthy's 'The Station Agent' is a joyous and wondrous tale of three rather unique and quirky individuals whose lives intersect at an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey.

When a dwarf named Fin inherits the station from a business partner, he moves there, hoping to find a place where he will finally be free from all the prying eyes, pointing fingers and knowing smiles he's been subjected to all his life. However, Fin finds that, even in isolation, it's not always easy to be alone. As soon as he takes up residence in his new abode, he meets up with Olivia and Joe, two people with whom he seems to have little in common, but with whom he manages to forge a lasting friendship. Olivia is a struggling artist who lost her young son two years earlier in a freak accident. Grief-stricken and trying to put the pieces of her life back together, Olivia experiences major mood swings that make it hard for others to get close to her, no matter how hard they try. Fin, likewise, is a shy, taciturn young man who has pretty much given up the possibility that he will ever be able to have a 'normal' relationship with other people (let alone women). Thus, he turns inward, throwing up barriers in an effort to keep people out of his life, hoping that, by doing so, he will avoid getting hurt any further. Joe, on the other hand, is a garrulous young Cuban who runs a hot dog stand right outside Fin's station, a man who chatters on endlessly about any subject and sees nothing wrong with forcing himself into Fin's life, blithely unaware that his company is the last thing Fin wants. Yet, Joe is so openhearted and good-natured that even Fin, though desperately craving privacy and silence, hasn't the heart to dampen the young man's desire for companionship and friendship. Somehow, through the trials and tribulations of daily living, these three strangers develop a bond of friendship, love and mutual support.

The set-up for 'The Station Agent' could have led to any number of serious pitfalls, given its potential for unbridled quirkiness and feel-good sentimentality However, McCarthy has managed to walk that fine line between preciousness and charm, contrivance and originality, calculation and spontaneity. He has fashioned an adroit screenplay filled with likable characters, rueful humor, clever one-liners and restrained slapstick. The film is less concerned with storyline and plot than it is with tone, mood and character interaction. Throughout the film, we seem to be eavesdropping on the lives of these people, understanding that we will never fully know all the life experiences that have gone into making them the people they are today, but happy to spend just this little bit of time with them anyway.

'The Station Agent' is a masterpiece of fine acting, with Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale delivering pitch-perfect, bell-ringing performances. As the reticent dwarf, Dinklage is particularly brilliant at creating a character out of little more than body language and facial expressions. His work here offers definitive proof that some of the greatest acting and character development can be accomplished with a minimum of dialogue.
199 out of 212 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A note-perfect little film that draws you in with the slightest of touches to produce a wonderful little film that is well acted, well written and well directed
bob the moo29 September 2004
Finbar has lived all his life with dwarfism and has carved out a pleasantly quiet living working in the back room of a model train shop. When the owner dies suddenly, Fin finds himself without a place of employment but with the inheritance of a patch of land and an old railway depot. Moving up there, he finds the usual pointing and staring and just continues his shut off existence. However a literal run-in with woman suffering loss and an overfriendly coffee stand vendor mean that he is forced to do something he has never really done before – have friends.

Maybe it is because its plot-lite, quirky nature is aimed at the same crowd that was still busy talking about Lost in Translation but The Station Agent seemed to be gone from the cinemas almost as quickly as it entered it. Not unusual even in a big city like Birmingham – generally non-blockbusters are only given a week, two at most before they are shunted off the screens by something else; but for it to happen to a film that easily matches Lost in Translation for sheer quirky humour and genuine emotional involvement is a real shame because this is a film that I will recommend (but not hype) to anyone who will listen to me. In terms of story, not much happens but three rather solitary souls come together, becoming friends but also bringing all their issues, baggage and problems with them. In terms of substance this is where it is at as the well written script allows Fin's seclusion to be part of him, Joe's innocently friendly nature to be as real as his speed to be wounded while the complexity of Olivia's friendship with Fin is never as simple as it would seem if I were just to state it here. It slowly draws you in with its gentle nature but it really does deliver an engaging and touching story.

The quirky touch and the gentle humour is very well observed even though at points it was rather obviously delivered with the use of 'quirky' music and strange looking shots. It is this that sets a very nice foundation for the deeper stuff that is to come and helps us buy into the characters early on so that we are there when we need to be. This quirky tone goes across the whole film and I think the only way I can describe it is to call it 'lovely'; it was lovely and it produced a delightful film that is easy to settle into and really enjoy. Dinklage is excellent; he is almost silent at times but gradually grows and you can see in his face his issues but also him struggling to come to terms with this sudden acceptance he appears to be being given as well as his own desire to trust people where he has never had a reason to before. It is very easy to praise Clarkson for strong performances but she has done it yet again with a performance that makes her character so layered but also so revealing without ever being obvious. Cannavale is given less story and character to work with but he makes the most of it and effortlessly avoids the 'yaw bro' cliché that he could easily have been and produces a sensitive, likable and sympathetic character with comparatively little material. The film has others in it but these three are the core and, with three wonderful leads how could the film have been anything less than it was?

Overall this is a very slight film that ends as quietly as it began and has little in the way of plot in between. However it has a wonderful mood delivered by unfussy direction, a unobtrusive and fitting score, wonderfully written characters and three wonderful lead performances. Missed by many on its cinema release, this is a wonderful little film that I hope will continue to surprise those that come across it during the coming years on DVD, cable and television.
134 out of 151 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Size matters
George Parker16 June 2004
"The Station Agent" is a slice-of-dwarf-life character study which takes a long, hard look at little person Fin (Dinklage), a train buff who inherits an old, inactive train depot where he takes up residence and then becomes involved with the locals. This poignancy packed flick spends its full 88 minute run with a sometimes cheeky, sometimes plaintive and always human development a handful characters who all have problems of their own. An extraordinary first outing for writer/director McCarthy, this little indie received raves from critical corners and applause from the public at large making it an almost sure thing for potential viewers. A wonderful film which makes the point that size does matter when it's size of character and not stature. (A-)
90 out of 104 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Beauty Of Sheer Simplicity
Chrysanthepop25 March 2008
'The Station Agent' is a very simple but lovely quirky little film. There isn't much in terms of a plot but it works as a wonderful tone and mood piece and a brilliant study of three very likable and unique individuals and their friendship. As the audience it feels as though we are taking a glimpse into their lives and invited to be part of their experience. The cheerful background score adds to the quirkiness (without being intrusive). The screenplay is refreshing as it elegantly brings together the characters, the subtle light humour, the clever dialogues and one-liners. 'The Station Agent' is also visually pleasing, the simplistic natural green spacious settings, Olivia's lonely home, Fin's dark little one-roomed bedless stationhome and Joe's friendly van. The actors breathe life into their roles. All three of the principle cast members deliver very sincere and natural performances. Peter Dinklage acts in a very restrained manner allowing his silence to speak volumes. Bobby Cannavale is hilarious as the chatty Joe. Patricia Clarkson easily brings out the layers of Olivia and gives a strong performance. Michelle Williams holds her own. Overall, 'The Station Agent' is a delightful experience that draws smiles from the audience. An uplifting gentle little film.
47 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
favourite film of the last few years
grandalivesey16 July 2004
I have never commented on any database about anything until now.

I wanted to find out more about the cast and Google raised this DB; I was delighted to see the customer comment facility. Reading a selection of comments I was astonished to find how much uniformity there was. Many of us seem to have had a similar experience.

I have seen the film twice. I enjoyed it so much that I thought perhaps it was because I was in the right mood and it would not stand scrutiny a second time. I enjoyed it, if anything, more on the second occasion. On both occasions when the film ended there was an audible groan of dismay from the audience that it finished long before they were ready.

It has not had a wide circulation in England and I have been a one man promotional bore encouraging friends to go to see it.

I thought that Lost in Translation would be my favourite of the last few years but it has been pushed out of the top slot.

I am surprise at a few of the comments from other contributors. "what is a coffee wagon doing in such a place", "poor script for Patricia Clarkson" etc.

For me the script, photography, acting, cutting and casting were perfect. Only one complaint- too short.

It is hard to pick the best performance and I will certainly change my mind next time I ask myself, but today I would go for Bobby Cannavale.

Geoff Livesey
135 out of 165 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Well-acted, concise story, nicely put together
MisterWhiplash31 January 2004
The Station Agent is one of those films where there doesn't seem to be much in the way, at least in conventional terms, of a story being told without dubious circumstance. Whoever Finbar- Fin (Peter Dinklage, in a mostly low-key, appropriately observant performance) meets in the small town of Newfoundland, NJ will either be at some degree of a friend to him, or someone who passes him by and scoffs at his apparent height of four foot five inches. The way writer/director Thomas McCarthey has characters interact with each other is also rewarding, since they come off as solid and believable to their situations (the life-affirming Joe, the sweet and lonely Olivia, the little fascinated girl Cleo, and the young, sexy Emily). And at the same time he doesn't lose sight of the center of the film, which is the obsession with trains. It's a wonderful motif to have with these characters- most especially for Fin- who don't seem to go anywhere much, and are content to watch them go by as they stay put in the town. By the end I felt like I saw a heart-warming comedy, despite the sad moments, as it went for a more human side to actions and dialog, instead of a 'slapstick-because-there's-a-dwarf' ideal to comedies. Fin is a person, and we're given him as a uniquely empathetic persona in Dinklage's performance. A-
57 out of 68 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Beautiful character studies, unhurried but continuously captivating
Chris_Docker8 April 2004
A story about a man with dwarfism who's hobby is trainspotting doesn't sound like an inspiring tale, but the Station Agent is a remarkable achievement in making it just that. Relocating to a fairly remote area where he has inherited some property, the main character becomes very popular - not because of his cute dwarfism, but because he exhibits an inner strength that enables people to eventually see past his physical deformity. Superb acting by all the cast, and wonderful contrasts between their inner lives and the outer personas they use to deal with the everyday superficialities of the world (including meeting new people). The film is beautiful, uplifting, realistic, without ever becoming cheesy or moralising. A joy to behold.
74 out of 90 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Less is more
felekisz2 January 2006
So much to say, so little time...

The Station Agent came along and reminded me how movie making should be. Simple, natural, humane. At first, I hesitated to watch it because films about "less fortunate people" tend to get cheesy and try too hard to make you shed a tear. People only praise them because they feel sorry for the main character... but this time you won't get any of that gratuitous sentimentality.

In my opinion, the movie's greatest quality is that it never insists in pointing out the obvious (that life is unfair), instead it shows you the interior journey of the three main characters towards acceptance/understanding of their condition/situation. All made possible by the perfectly natural performances of these wonderful actors. You know what they think and feel without them having to say "deep" things like people in most artsy pictures do. All the magic is in the normal, everyday details, subtle gestures, filmed with a lot of good taste and without the use of cute or overly dramatic elements. The soundtrack fits like a glove with slow, bitter-sweet guitar tunes that feel fresh and create a sensible, warm mood.

Experiencing this film is worth so much more than all the soulless excitement and drama we're usually treated with. I've watched it a lot of times and I appreciated it more and more with each viewing. The characters are more real to me than a lot of fake people I know. I also warmly recommend The Straight Story if you like to walk away from movies with more than you came in.
18 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Best film of 2003
This is an amazing film -- it has humor, intelligence and emotion. With a minimum of dialog, it conveys a great deal of wisdom regarding the human condition.

Peter Dinklage excels as a train enthusiast who thinks a move to the small train depot he inherits may afford him the peace and quiet he craves. As a result of his dwarfism, he has been on the receiving end of too much cruelty, sometimes thoughtless but all too often intentional, so all he wants is to be left alone. Once ensconced in the depot, however, he meets a few people (most notably an artist played by Patricia Clarkson) who bring to his life all the complications involved in relationships. And that's what this film is all about: we are all fallible individuals, but ultimately we need each other.

High marks to Thomas McCarthy for directing and writing this treasure. The only thing I don't understand is why it was assigned an "R" rating.
58 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Even better than I expected
MsLiz3 September 2004
I heard the comments, I read the reviews, but actually seeing The Station Agent was even better than I had expected. I watched it in a library--and it was almost a full house for the showing tonight. At the end there was a burst of applause. I watch movies in libraries quite often, but I can't remember the last time I heard applause when the movie was over.

Another movie (Lost in Translation is in this group) which doesn't settle for the oh-too-obvious "fall in love" clichés, and presents supportive friendship as a worthwhile choice. I think that working towards friendship is a tremendous possibility (and never one that you have to regret in the morning)!
57 out of 77 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I was entranced. Just what I want in a movie.
Lily Marlowe28 December 2004
The Station Agent was for me one of those "quiet movies about quiet people who come and go quietly" (I'm not a big fan of action films.) I love to experience human intimacy on film and The Station Agent did exactly that for me. I found the characters, and their interaction, captivating. I fell in love with Patricia Clarkson through Six Feet Under, Bobby Cannavale through Will & Grace, and Peter Dinklage through Dinner for Five. What an ensemble! In this coming together of such grand talent, I experienced synergistic convergence, a rare commodity in film. I found Peter absolutely enchanting, he delivers a magical performance. I am in awe of the light that shines from his being. I perceive him to be an ancient soul. My life has been enriched for having experienced his essence. And, even though I'm old enough to be his mother, I find him to be a handsome and sexy man! (And I'm 5'9" tall). The universe has been waiting for Peter Dinklage. I look for him to accomplish wonderful things (in and out of the film industry).
76 out of 107 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
jllewell4 June 2012
This was great, great, great.

Game of Thrones had already reminded me of just how great an actor Peter Dinklage is. When I saw this online, I snapped it up. He's such an attractive man, and talented as well... how could I leave it there?

I'm so glad that I got it. It's a slow film. Somewhat the speed of a good slow western, but with so much packed into it. It reminded me of ''The Company of Strangers'', in feel, though completely different in substance. You really have to laugh through a lot of it, the one-liners, and recognizable silly situations had me ''rolling in the aisles''.

And being a train lover, I had to have a quiet chuckle about the thread of trains through the film.

I have a very eclectic taste in film, Alien and Predator have a shelf of their own, however I always have lots of this type of film. This will go on the same shelf as ''Ghost Dog'', and ''The Whales of August'', ''Hana Bi'' and the like. A wonderful film about the human condition.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wipe That Smile Off Your Face!
tendobear28 August 2012
That's exactly what I couldn't do throughout the whole movie - wipe that smile off my face; everything about this movie was just so full of charm, wonder and joy that it's almost impossible not to smile or laugh. The characters are all lovingly crafted and lovably quirky - Fin is the titular Station Agent who has lived his life segregating himself from others due to his condition (dwarfism), but we gradually see him open up to reveal himself to be a very kind and quick-witted individual. Fin just wants to be left alone, so when he inherits an old, run-down train depot in Newfoundland, NJ, it's almost a dream come true for him - he's in the middle of practically nowhere and he loves trains! However his lonesome bliss is disturbed when an assorted cast of characters gradually draw him out of his shell and threaten to bring down the walls that he had built around his life to protect himself. Fin's transformation from ostracised recluse to a confident and out-going companion is helped along by Bobby Cannavale's Joe, a Cuban-American helping his sick dad run his hot-dog van business. Joe is a lover of life, he's perpetually optimistic, positive and he never shuts up! Olivia also helps Fin, she's a clumsy and sometimes absent-minded artist who is running from her own problems, which ultimately becomes the cause of some strife towards the end of the movie. I absolutely loved this movie, I don't know why it took me so long to finally watch it, and I'm glad I did when I did, because I was feeling a little depressed and unexcited about life, and then this cheered me up and reminded me that everybody has down days, but I shouldn't let these down times cloud over what life has to offer; it's rare for a movie to have that kind of effect on you. Purely magical.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
My Favorite Movie
sonfulsonja16 December 2015
With so many action movies about fantasy land, I was struck by the simplicity, fine acting and subtle humor of this movie. Peter Dinklage is adorable and one of the finest actors of our time. All three main actors are superb. Joe, the food truck driver is a hoot and endearing in such an innocent way. Olivia, is tortured, but yet warm and kind. Her performance in the film was a 10. A combination of a fine writing met with outstanding performers.

In summary without giving away too much, it is the unlikely friendship that develops among three very different strangers. It is a heartwarming and a beautiful story.

I like to tell people I discovered Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) back in 2003 before anyone knew his name. A must see.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fantastic Kickback and relax movie
cleverarty21 December 2014
The Station Agent is a Movie that brings so many different yet simple aspects of a quiet life in the middle of 'nowhere' so to speak. The main characters of the movie- Finbar,Joey and Olivia all live or live and work in the small town/village of Newfoundland, NJ. This is a heart warming story about people who meet each other either through accidents or circumstances that they really can't control and fall into friendship that definitely goes beyond words. I really can't put one actor or actress above the other among the above mentioned three. Many people underestimate the role Joey plays, but in my opinion Joey is the glue that keeps them together. 'He is full of life' as Olivia observes. The movie has a fantastic location,soundtrack and overall cinematography. This movie is definitely a fantastic work in just about every aspect and it certainly deserves a 10. Very highly recommended.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
How virtually-nothing-happening can be fascinating
Bene Cumb8 April 2013
A silent retired dwarf with odd hobbies, a babbling Hispanic lorry-café worker with sick father, a separated female artist with family issues - all lonely in different ways, getting together in a small sleepy township. Formation of friendship is not easy, has its ups and downs, as all three are totally different, plus, for a long time, there is no big event to boost their relationship. Of course, such crumble contacts would have bright and comic moments - I giggled many times, although it is no comedy, rather a sad and romantic drama without erotic inclinations.

And the cast is strong and fine, beginning with Peter Dinklage as Finbar McBride, Patricia Clarkson as Olivia Harris and Bobby Cannavale as Joe Oramas - all great characters and performances... A real masterpiece, beyond mainstream stuff, and leading the way to see other movies with the participation of the actors mentioned.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
manendra-lodhi24 March 2013
The film succeeds in all the areas. It is quiet, peaceful and something which we all can adore in the end. Peter Dinklage is hugely responsible for making the movie so much memorable. From the starting itself it is clear that this man loves to be quiet and live alone. How one thing starts to lead to another and how he made some friends is adorable. Other supporting cast too had charismatic qualities. All the major character's seemed to be sad inside. The film apart from entertaining teaches you to find happiness in small thing. The pace of the film is slow and blends equally well with the lives of the characters. The story of the film revolves around a dwarfed man who has a fascination for trains and because of some unusual circumstances, he is forced to live in an abandoned train depot and his life starts to include certain new friends with slow but in an interesting way. The story gives you a feeling that it is all happening so naturally. Because the incidents are just so slow, not so attention seeking, that somehow in a very peaceful way you are drawn into them.

MESSAGE: "Search for peace of mind."

VERDICT: "A recommended watch."
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Quirky, but pleasantly so...
Tim Kidner8 July 2012
You know quirky often means weird, right? 'Specially when it comes to films - and Indie American ones...

Station Agent is interestingly quirky, where you might take a second look and say "OK, that's a bit different, but hey!" and then just carry on with what you were doing. One of life's "nuances", not freaks of nature.

Finbar here (Peter Dinklage) looks a bit different, being four feet something in height but just wishes he was invisible. People making comments and then realising they shouldn't have then pretending they didn't - all that sort of nonsense.

So, when this quiet trainspotting dwarf hits the comatose backwater town of Newfoundland, NJ, to move into the disused station house left to him by his just deceased employer, quiet is all he wants and....doesn't get.

Through a series of nods, facial expressions and suggested directional strokes (from Thomas McCarthy), Fin, as he's known, quietly desists the attention he's getting from his neighbours. An overly friendly food vendor, Joe (Bobby Cannavale) who spends more time in front of his van than actually in it and estranged single (and bereft) mother Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), who's driver concentration skills desperately need honing.

There's little point in running through the plot, largely because there isn't one. It's heart-warming qualities mainly manifest themselves how these three (relative) oddballs, who are all so utterly different, with almost zero compatibility slowly and naturally become friends.

Nothing much more to add, really, except that I know it is one of many people's top 10 films, though not really in mine. I can see the qualities in it that appeal to them and they're good ones. The film is like a plate of food that is presented to you - it's a bit of mish-mash but it looks edible enough and as you pick at those ingredients, it all tastes better than you thought, but after you've finished, it was just ....a plate of food.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Probably the perfect film
jclaire-320 June 2011
I have watched The Station Agent at least 20 times. If ever there was a movie crying out for a sequel, this is it. Not a sequel, necessary, but a reunion of characters years later. There is so much left, by the end of the film, that we want to know about these characters. Come on, Tom, think about the futures of each of these wonderful and original beings, then call Bobby, Peter and Patricia and have a go at it!

We need to know that somehow Peter had an enjoyable life, that Bobby did, indeed, take over the business and did well, and Patricia's character somehow survived the terribly confusing life she had tried to leave behind. It is as if the movie ended right at the potential turning points for the characters' lives which, of course, left us wanting more.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Off-Beat Movie About Eccentrics and Misfits
evanston_dad11 November 2008
One of those small, quiet films about human behavior that utterly captivates through the strength of its writing and acting.

It could have been too quaint for its own good, full of self-consciously eccentric characters, but it's not. Instead, it's warm and inviting, full of the kind of characters you wish you could just stay with after the movie's over.

Peter Dinklage plays a grumpy misfit who moves out to a solitary town in order to be left alone. But the outgoing assortment of fellow misfits he meets won't let that happen. Dinklage is good, but Bobby Cannavale, as a goofball who won't ever shut up, and Patricia Clarkson, as a sad and lonely painter, are the stand outs.

Grade: A
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A small film with a large affect...
rpf152314 May 2013
This is one of those films that is easily missed and that's too bad! I was lucky enough to find this film on my cable movie station, purely by accident and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The performance by Peter Dinklage was worthy of award. His quiet, understated depiction of Finmar McBride, the recently displaced electric train repairman who suffers from dwarfism, was compellingly truthful and brought the viewer into his world in a way that was remarkable and moving.

The supporting cast of Bobby Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson stirred the plot into a story of loneliness to one of love and support.

I deeply recommend this film for viewing!
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The best mood piece I've seen in a long time
marlee-424 March 2013
First I have to take my hat off to Peter Dinklage. I've liked and respected him as an actor for a long time but this is the first time I've seen him as the lead in a film, and boy does he deliver.

The premise of this film is pretty used up: 'Grumpy guy makes new friends, becomes more open to life'. However, Dinklage delivers the character's avoidance of unnecessary communication with other people with a truthful kindness I find extremely rare in films, no matter which country or decade.

Together with Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale who are also excellent, Dinklage and director Tom McCarthy have created a mood piece that gave me the exact same feeling as going on school trips as a teenager, and sneaking out of our tent at night to flirt with the boys. You might have to have grown up in a country with distinctive seasons to appreciate this sentiment, but watching this movie felt just like summer.

I also enjoyed the fact that the three friends do behave like teenagers to a certain degree. It's refreshing to see adults acting like this in a film.

All this being said, I think parts of the film didn't sit well with me, especially the opening. I actually had to watch it twice to understand what was going on, and not in a good way. I also found that the conflict in the film seemed a little forced, but all in all I m very happy I decided to watch this film.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Walking the Right of Way
moviemanMA24 August 2007
There are those in life who don't stray too far from the path presented in front of them. They live life in the safety of knowing where they are going. Like a train on the rails, they stay on those rails and ride them out, regardless of what they see along the way. have to jump off.

Thomas McCarthy's The Station Agent follows one man's struggle to find peace of mind and solitude. Instead he finds an abandoned train depot and two people he can't avoid.

Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage), a man of small stature but not of mind, has devoted his life to making model trains and studying the real ones from roof to rail. When Henry, part owner of their train store and fellow train enthusiast passes away, the shop is closed and in his will he leaves Fin a small piece of land with an old train depot.

Here in this little shack he finds peace and quiet, time to walk the rails, and just a lot of time. Upon arrival, he meets Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a man from Manhattan who works his fathers coffee stand until he gets better. Joe is a loud mouth guy who means no harm but to strike up some good conversation.

One of his regulars, Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), accidentally runs Fin off the road...twice. Fin's peaceful escape is already becoming a dreadful nightmare with the constant chatter of Joe and the near fatal encounters with Olivia.

Out of this utter disaster of a beginning, the three become close friends. Joe's constant badgering and Olivia's sweet hearted nature eventually bring Fin out of his shell. A shell that he has retreated to many times due to his height. For what appears like the first time, Fin isn't reminded of this when he is around these two.

McCarthy has created one of the most original stories of modern cinema. The characters, who could not have been cast better, are complex but are easy to understand. Fin just wants to isolate himself from the world that has pointed and joked about him his entire life. Joe wants friendship and the simple things to keep him happy. Olivia is a woman who has lost what is most dear to her and is trying to escape the pain it caused her.

The character of Fin in particular is of extreme interest. It's ironic how his passion in life is trains, which were invented to bring people and places closer together, yet he chooses to live mostly in seclusion and away from it all. His little contact to those who admire trains as he does and the people of the convenience store and library seem to be his only contact to the outside world. Joe and Olivia change that in a hurry.

Throughout the film he is seen wearing a white collared shirt with black suit pants and black shoes. His life very uninteresting, as if void of color like his clothing. His two new friends bring out the best in him and even some color in his clothing. Joe, Olivia, even Emily the librarian (Michelle Williams) bring out the best of Fin. A life that would have not ventured too far from the tracks is now derailed and free to explore the world outside the depot.

The film isn't about trains. It isn't about a guy who loves trains. It's about the impact that friendship and simple human contact can have on a person, good and bad. How its the little things we do whether we give someone a look or a laugh at a joke, those are the things that make a difference in someone's life.

The Station Agent shines. It is about people just trying to get by the best way they can through work, art, trains, and good old conversation.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Whoo, we're train chasing baby"!
classicsoncall19 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The word 'quirky' is getting quite a workout in reviews for this film. I would use it myself, but so many people beat me to the punch that I would feel like a copycat. So what else can I come up with? Unusual, unpredictable, off-beat, strange? No, quirky will do just fine.

Cutting right to the chase, "The Station Agent" manages to make the point that in the end, people are just people, and we can all get along if we make the attempt to get to know each other. It doesn't matter on size, shape, color or ethnic origin - we all have similar desires and goals, things that make us happy and things that make us sad. Left to himself, Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) would probably have been just as satisfied to live the life of a recluse, but darn it, someone like Joe Oramas (Bobby Cannavale) has to get in the way and be a pain in the neck about it. Which would be OK, if he didn't have to avoid getting run over a couple of times by a distracted Olivia Harris (Patricia Clarkson).

Fin, Joe and Olivia are characters one can identify with; they can easily be part of one's own experience, although I don't come in contact with many dwarfs myself. But the dynamic going on in the picture transcends views of people as Cuban, black, divorcée, dwarf or pregnant librarian. It's a film about relationships and how those of diverse backgrounds can be there for one another when a bump in the road occurs. In this case, a bump in the right of way, but you get the idea.

This film must have been in and out of local theaters before registering on anyone's radar. I only became aware of it by running across the DVD at my local library. I'm glad I did, and feel strangely compelled to recommend it to friends who most likely never heard of it either. Like the convenience store in the film, this one is 'Good to Go'.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Comfort food
Alex Cutler (acutler)21 September 2013
I can't really fault this movie. I have come back and back to this movie continually since 2003, and I never tire of watching it. It is (for me) the ultimate movie comfort food.

Nothing much happens, and yet so much happens. Ultimately a life-affirming movie that asserts the value of friendship (even if unwanted) trumping all odds.

The only problem I really have is it is difficult to really articulate to friends why they should watch it. Telling the plot is generally a turn off. It's really not about plot, it's about character.

If you can set your expectations away from the sugar-coated Hollywood thorough-fare: there is no action, there is little love, there is little plot: then you have a chance of finding this movie one of the hidden gems of movie-making; and you will miss none of the attributes I listed. And - to be clear - it is about much more than a person of less than average height!
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews