site statistics


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Station Agent (2003)

The Station Agent is about Fin (Peter Dinklage), a man with an unusually short name and an abnormally small body. He’s reminded of it at nearly every point of his life by almost everybody he meets. The little boys playing at a ground near his workplace enquire about the whereabouts of ‘Snow White’. The lady at the cash counter says something apologetic for not having seen him. A cheeky old woman grins with victory after taking a picture of him. The librarian freaks out on almost walking into him and explains that she thought the place was empty. Even the good news of inheriting a piece rural property left by a friend comes along with distasteful dessert, “You’re one of those memorable people.” And you will laugh as expected. But director Thomas Mccarthy doesn’t let the film capitalize on Fin’s short stature for laughs. He directs his actors with precision and lets them sink into the skins of the characters. You see their sadness. You see something exceptional in it and you hop on the train.

Fin adapts to the situation by choosing to exclude society from his world and replacing it with trains. I don’t understand how someone could instantly be fascinated by trains. I don’t think Fin was either. He probably took up the job out of necessity and ended up liking it. Things take an uncertain turn when his only friend, and employer, passes away and the railway modeling shop gets sold off. All he has left is a rural property at a fairly deserted place. The closest convenient store is two miles away. There’s a Joe (Bobby Cannavale) right outside his place running a snack truck. “I’ve been here six weeks and its driving me crazy,” Joe complains. Fin finds him obnoxiously extroverted and tries to rebuff him but Joe simply doesn’t seem to receive the signals. Then there’s Olivia (Patricia Clarkson). Olivia is pretty much on the same page as Fin. She escaped from society because she saw the sympathy in its eyes everyday for having lost her child and it made it harder for her to move on. Both Olivia and Fin tend to escape from their own trauma by focusing on the other person’s trauma without realizing that they’re doing it to make their own worlds burn brighter. When they witness Joe’s gregarious innocence, they’re reminded of the damage that life’s done to them. Any genuine offering of help from Joe or Olivia is misread as sympathy by Fin. Joe’s reaching out because there’s really nothing out there to do while she reaches out to absolve herself for almost running him off the road, twice.

Fin’s guard is brought down slowly until he eventually discards it. But then he gets hurt and lapses again into antisocial behavior. His energy level snowballs down and reaches its lowest point pushing him to end it all by lying on rail tracks. His small frame saves him as the train passes through the tracks, leaving him unhurt. Using that as a blessing, he decides to go and speak about trains at a school.

The Station Agent is a brilliant examination of characters, society and loneliness-a personal favourite of Mccarthy. This is the same guy who brought Richard Jenkins an Oscar nomination for The Visitor and wrote the animated movie Up. Another trait of Mccarthy that reminded me of The Visitor was the presence of non-sexual intimacy. The characterization is great and the actors are fabulous. They don’t stop with providing full justice to the material, they elevate it. The Station Agent is a 90-minute long dramedy that showcases the most cinematic phase of Fin’s life. This is an outstanding debut that’s been conveniently overlooked by The Academy.

Rating – 10/10


  1. well written, a tad too long though. Would love to watch this film.

  2. the name didn't grab me, but your review actually got me interested in seeing this film. Great job, Rohit, and a good review to boot

  3. Wonderful analysis, there! I loved this film. I was wondering if you saw any similarities in Mc Carthy and Bahrani's style?

  4. Really looking forward to watching this movie. I'm a huge fan of Peter Dinklage after his performance in Game Of Thrones. Hope you get around to watching it sometime.

  5. Good cinematography, decent acting. But, the story is wafer-thin, it jumps from one forced poignant moment to the next, and the scenes and settings don't add up. Then it just ends.
    This review goes overboard in it's praise.


Large Association of Movie Blogs