The Station Agent (2004)

station-agent-posterThe reason why I love independent movies and prefer them over any big-budget event movie is simply for that reason: independent movies are movies, and not events, thus they do not become gimmicks. Independent movies have the advantage of having a low budget because a low budget helps separate the men from the boys. With an independent movie you learn whether the writers and directors shouldn’t even be in Hollywood or have created a work of art. Like someone once said, “just because you can work a film camera, doesn’t mean you should be behind one”, and that’s exactly it. With Indies you either have a pretentious work of crap, a work of schlock, or a work of art; low budget productions help cut through the bullshit and expose real actors, real filmmaking and real writing. Our story “The Station Agent” is all of the above: a real work of art, real filmmaking, real writing, all with real acting.

Fin is a dwarf and an (understandable) introvert who has a passion for trains and locomotives; he repairs models as a day job, and goes to clubs to learn about them, and he even walks tracks, but when his partner and only friend suddenly dies, he inherits an abandoned train depot which he immediately sets up home at and reluctantly befriends the locals coming to grips with his differences and finding where he belongs. Fin is an unbreakable force; a man who puts up defense against the outside world through his silence and urge to be alone, he also urges to be left alone but it becomes rather difficult for people not to notice him when he enters a room. Fin puts up defenses against everyone, and eventually we wonder if it’s the best thing for him after all. It would be easy to make the main character Fin a parody or farce of a hero, but writer-director Thomas McCarthy restores dignity in its main character instilling a soul in him and making him a character and underdog to truly root for.

He’s dignified and the odd characters around him never diminish his dignity. Actor Peter Dinklage is truly an actor with soul and gives a charming and very good performance here. On the way to getting settled into his new home, Fin meets a whimsical assortment of odd characters including a young black girl named Cleo (Raven Goodwin) with the same love for trains and an immense fascination with Fin who attempts to befriend him relentlessly, a reclusive sexy divorcee named Olivia (played by one of my favorite actresses, Patricia Clarkson) who has a knack for running into Fin… literally. A flirtatious librarian named Emily (Michelle Williams) whose first reaction upon seeing him is screaming in horror, and of course Joe the coffee man, played by Bobby Cannavale. Joe is my favorite character in this film simply for his accepting nature of Fin after he moves into the abandoned depot.

Cannavale’s character seems to be accepting of the character Fin, perhaps because he feels at his level of being an outcast and in many ways they’re both the same in soul, charisma and spirit so he instantly wants to befriend him for reasons only the character Joe would know. It’s never spelled out for the audience why Joe is so utterly fascinated with Fin and why he wants to befriend him, thankfully, but it’s perhaps his curiosity and loneliness and maybe he’s just purely accepting of him without any prejudice. Bobby Cannavale is hilarious here as the lonely and anxious Joe who is very eager to befriend Fin. Joe manages to help Fin break free from his mostly sheltered and reclusive life by literally forcing his way into his and getting him to open up about his life and break free from his shell of isolation and introverted manners. Bobby is just great to watch here and he’s a great polar opposite of Dinklage and in turn they find a connection through their dichotomous relationship.

The characters here are odd and eccentric in their own ways, but wildly charming and endearing to watch as they connect and befriend one another through the love of trains and train spotting. I was taken with the movie simply for the message it conveys to the audience, and how it explores the journey of this man who just longs to be alone in life, but finds it very difficult when he finds kindred spirits. “The Station Agent” is a satisfying and compelling simple film about one man’s journey to find his place in the world that has no place for him, it’s a story about a man who assumes he’s alone in the world, and he finds two other lost souls who are on the same journey he is and feel his sorrow. I loved this movie simply for it’s low-key nature of filmmaking and simple story of a man’s journey in life. Great acting, great script and competent directing fuel a truly good work of art not to be missed.