The Station Agent (2003) Directed by Thomas McCarthy. With Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Williams.
Writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s debut offering is a good-natured, offbeat comedy-drama following the fortunes of Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage), a man born with dwarfism who after the unexpected death of his seemingly only good friend, is bequeathed a piece of rural land with a disused train depot on it. Fin is a withdrawn man who above all, seeks solitude – and it’s here that he looks to begin a new life away from the unwanted attention that his diminutive stature attracts. Once there, he encounters a collection of people whose interest in him is at first met with caution, but then slowly develops into something more.
This is a film about friendship and trust and it’s a life-affirming, upbeat piece that while being very simple and short, is all-the-more penetrating and beautiful for it. The landscape and setting for the film, a quiet US backwater town around Newfoundland, New Jersey is both eye-catching and peaceful and serves as an attractive backdrop for the moments of subtle comedy-infused drama. The soundtrack of sparse guitar picking by Stephen Trask also serves to enhance the lonely, almost deserted locations with a sense of melancholic romance.
Peter Dinklage is excellent as Fin, a man slowly coming out of his shell and learning to trust the curious strangers he meets. It’s in the development of these relationships that the film draws its breath and comes to life. There’s something real and earthy about the characters and credit must go to McCarthy for never labouring his point or being obviously schmaltzy. It would seem that The Station Agent is a film that has for years lived in the kind of solitude sought out by its protagonist. With a host of awards to its name including a BAFTA for best original screenplay – it’s puzzling to see how a film this good has not gained wider appreciation. 4.5/5