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The Station Agent (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary with director Thomas McCarthy; 5 deleted scenes.

QUITE often, it’s the little things in life which can make the biggest impression, and so it is with The Station Agent, a smart, independent feature, about a dwarf who finds himself through the friendships he forms while attempting to build a new life.

Peter Dinklage is the dwarf in question, a 4ft 5ins tall train enthusiast, named Fin, who is all too happy to move to the station depot he has inherited from a recently deceased friend and co-worker, in order to get away from being stared at by everyone in the city.

Content with his seclusion, in what seems to be one of the most abandoned districts of New Jersey, Fin sets about indulging in his passion for walking the railways, but finds himself making friends with some of the area’s more eccentric inhabitants, including Bobby Cannavale’s happy-go-lucky chatterbox, who is operating his sick father’s snack truck outside Finn’s depot, and Patricia Clarkson’s estranged wife and artist, who is still coming to terms with the death of her son.

What begins as a tentative alliance, quickly develops into an important bond, as the friendship between the trio helps them to confront personal demons, as well as helping them to enjoy life once more.

Written and directed by first-timer, Tom McCarthy, The Station Agent is a genuinely heart-warming character study, which excels in just about every department, from performances, right down to pacing and script.

The cast, without exception, are exemplary, with Dinklage, especially, on mesmerising form as Fin, whose self-contempt is borne out of people’s reaction towards him.

As he soberly states, at one stage, ‘it's really funny how people see me and treat me, since I'm really just a simple, boring person’, for people either make fun, or sympathise, with him, in equal measure.

Dinklage expertly taps into the frustration felt by his character, making his journey towards self-respect and happiness all the more rewarding, and creating several poignant, but not overly sentimental, moments along the way.

Sure, he takes us to the depths of despair, but his path to recovery never feels as manipulative as it might in the hands of a more showy director, while his interaction with both Cannavale and Clarkson is really well handled, and never mawkish.

McCarthy, too, deserves acclaim for the way in which he strikes a near-perfect balance between the humour and sadness, allowing viewers to laugh out loud at some points, while fending off the tears at others.

The way in which he introduces Fin to Clarkson’s emotional Olivia is genuinely funny, as is a sight gag involving the arrival of her estranged husband on the morning after she has had her new-found friends over to stay.

And yet such moments are neatly offset by the weightier moments, during which Fin and co are forced to confront their demons, and make some form of progress along life’s path. There really ought not to be a viewer among you, who doesn’t root for them in some way.

The Station Agent deservedly won the Audience Award when it played at the Sundance Film Festival, in 2003, an award which is thoroughly deserved.

It may operate on a small scale, but it’s achievements are of the highest calibre. Make sure that it doesn’t get overlooked from your schedule.

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