The Station Agent
4½ out of 5 starsSHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
station agent A small, virtually perfect indie drama, this lovely little film taps into human truths in subtle telling ways with a trio of marvellous characters. Fin (Dinklage) has his whole life thrown for a loop when his friend and boss (Benjamin) dies, bequeathing him a remote New Jersey train depot, where he goes to escape from life and enjoy some solitude for a change. But the locals won't leave him alone. The impossibly friendly Joe (Cannavale) runs a food van and treats Fin like his new best pal. Local artist Olivia (Clarkson) is struggling to recover from personal tragedy, and seems intent on causing one for Fin with her erratic driving. The librarian (Williams) takes an unusual interest in the new town resident. And a student (Goodwin) asks a few too many questions. Slowly, very slowly, Fin begins to thaw to these people, then he starts to see that he may need Joe and Olivia as much as they need them.

Writer-director McCarthy takes us through this gentle story almost effortlessly, highlighting the little quirks in each character's personality without remotely turning them into offbeat rural stereotypes. These are real people, and it's thoroughly engaging to watch them learn to live around each other, and to learn not to be afraid to touch each others' lives. Dinklage is superb in the role, beautifully bringing out Fin's inner turmoil--years of discrimination that has led to mistrust. He finds it hard to believe that anyone could be interested in him for anything besides the fact that he's a dwarf. Meanwhile, Clarkson delivers yet another divinely attuned performance as the brittle, devastated Olivia; and Cannavale also finds real resonance in the too-kind Joe. The characters' isolation and the small town setting are beautifully captured in the writing and directing, complete with joys and frustrations, as well as subtle prejudices and understandings. This is superb filmmaking that really touches a nerve yet never manipulates or condescends to the audience for a second. It feels like a blast of fresh air in a cinema that's usually filled with mindless cynicism and contrived stupidity.

cert 12tbc themes, language 20.Oct.03

dir-scr Thomas McCarthy
with Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Raven Goodwin, Richard Kind, Paul Benjamin, John Slattery, Jayce Bartok, Joe LoTruglio, Sarah Bolger, Ileen Getz
release US 3.Oct.03; UK 26.Mar.04
03/US 1h28

Walking on the right-of-way: Dinklage, Clarkson and Cannavale

dinklage clarkson williams

23rd Shadows Awards

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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Shelley, Berkeley: 5 out of 5 stars "Such a sweet, sweet movie with characters that you love and feel so emotionally attached to because of their honesty, vulnerability and humanity. It's one of the best I've seen all year and doesn't have any of the Hollywood 'stuff' attached to it -- sex, violence, big stars, over inflated budgets. It's a character study and you'll love all of the characters from the innocent young schoolgirl to Fin, the dwarf. Go see it and enjoy something special." (12.Nov.03)

station agent David Havilland, London: 4 out of 5 stars "Very few actors can truly carry a film. Many can play a lead, of course, but they are usually supported by a range of distractions, be it action and special effects or a diverting subplot. Peter Dinklage is on screen for almost every second of The Station Agent, and when he’s not he’s missed. Dinklage plays Fin, a dwarf who loves trains and sees himself as a simple, boring man. Unfortunately everyone else sees him as an object of fascination. This is a tender, moving film with no distractions. The camera rarely moves, the soundtrack is simple and effective, and most of what action there is involves Fin walking along a deserted train track; but there are no dull moments. Each of the three main characters is drawn with depth and care. It’s also a very funny film, with a number of laugh out loud moments, including one involving spilt coffee which I really shouldn’t spoil. This is Thomas McCarthy’s first film, and a model of economy and taste. I can’t wait for his second." (19.Jan.04)

© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall