The Station Agent * * * *
Director: Tom McCarthy.
Screenplay: Tom McCarthy.
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Ravin Goodwin, Paul Benjamin, Richard Kind, Josh Pais.
Having just recently gotten into the HBO TV series “Game of Thrones” and finding the character and Golden Globe winning acting of Peter Dinklage very appealing, I decided to look back at one of his major leading roles in The Station Agent. I had seen this film years ago and liked it a lot but on a repeat viewing, I enjoyed it even more.
Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage) is a young man born with dwarfism that has consistently struggled to fit into society. He has a passion for trains and works in a shop selling such items but when his only friend and co-worker dies, he finds that in his late friends will, he has been left an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey. Looking for solitude, he packs up his things and moves there only to find unusual friendships developing with local struggling artist Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) – trying to overcome a personal tragedy of her own – and Joe (Bobby Cannavale) an overly friendly Cuban hot-dog vendor, desperate for some form of interaction with people.
This plot summary might not sound like much but don’t be fooled into thinking this is an uneventful or boring affair. It’s far from it. Yes, not a lot is going on this film but that exactly the appeal. It’s filled with such attention to detail and strong characterisation that this film is plentiful. I’m a sucker for these type of low-key, subtle and observant dramas and this debut from director Tom McCarthy is a perfect example of that particular sub-genre. It’s a slow moving and thoughtful film that sensitively deals with feelings of loneliness and isolation. To embody the emptiness, McCarthy is aided with three superb lead performances which are poignant and heartfelt but more importantly, realistic. Not a lot is going on in their lives but that’s the very thing that holds your attention. It’s the bond and the relationship they develop with one another that gives this film it’s heart. McCarthy handles the material delicately and seems entirely aware of the appeal that these characters have, as are the performers; Dinklage is an actor with many qualities and it’s great to see him in a rare but well deserved leading role. Patricia Clarkson is always an actress I’ve admired and it baffles me why she isn’t seen more often. The biggest surprise though, is Bobby Cannavale who provides the comic-relief to the suffering of the other two. That being said, this film isn’t the slightest bit depressing despite the subject matter. In fact, it’s a charming and absorbing human tale.
An original and affecting debut from director Tom McCarthy that displays a genuine warmth and respect for struggling individuals. His ability to be both perceptive and humorous is rarely captured so well on screen.