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The Station Agent (2003): A Movie Review

Updated on June 21, 2019
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


This film stars Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, and Bobby Cannavale (you may not know the name, but you definitely know the face; the man is a supremely talented, veteran "character" actor, whose been in a ton of things).

The Principal Players

Peter Dinklage as Finbar McBride

Patricia Clarkson as Olivia Harris

Bobby Cannavale as Joe Oramas

These three people are brought together, in an obscure, rural town in northern New Jersey, by different forms of pain.

Peter Dinklage, who goes by "Fin" in the movie, previously worked at a concern having to do with trains. As far as one can tell, from the film, his particular section of the organization seems to be a two-man department.

He and his partner/supervisor seem to go to work everyday dressed like undertakers, and work at building model trains and train depots, and such like. They seem to have something to do with facilitating the activity of train super-enthusiasts, who, among other things, get together in clubs, in which, among other things, they watch movies in which trains are prominently featured.

Some train super-enthusiasts "chase" trains, as it were, and film them in motion.

Anyway, Fin's partner, who happens also to be his best, and perhaps only friend, dies of a heart attack. In his will, he left Fin a train depot car to live in.

This is what brings Fin to this isolated rural town in New Jersey. However, his issue was being, in his words, a "dwarf," a little person, as it were, at four-feet-five inches tall. I, personally, thought the insults directed at his character by others was a bit overdone. When I watched this film, a few weeks ago, having borrowed it for free from my local public library, I found myself thinking: Were we really, still this primitive in 2003?

For example, there is a scene in which Fin visits a local convenience store, for the first time, and the proprietor actually says to him "yoo hoo," and when he turns, snaps a picture of him, as though he were a strange and curious wonder of the Earth that she might never see again for the rest of her life.

I thought that was tacky. It left a real bad taste in my mouth.

Joe Oramas (Mr. Cannavale) is brought there by the pain of his father's illness. While the old man is sick, he can't run the lunch truck. So, dutiful son Joe will keep it going until he recovers.

Olivia Harris (Miss Clarkson) is brought there to escape. We learn that her nine-year-old son died two years before. "He fell off the monkey bars," she says. Her marriage, it seems, was unable to survive the tragedy.

I'm not going to say much more about the plot, because you can get a plot summary from anywhere.

Well... that's not quite true. You can't get a plot summary from anywhere. That is because there is no "plot" to get a summary of.

You see, this is a gloriously plot-free film. That is not a bad thing in the case of a movie like this, in which you have three main characters, who are likable people, doing likable things, for likable reasons.

There is a story here, but no plot. That is to say, there is no special THING that any, or all of them, are trying to achieve or obtain. In other words, there simply is no specificity that the film is aiming at.

Here's what I mean

The Station Agent is simply a story about three people, with three different kinds of pain, coming together in an obscure, rural town in northern New Jersey, and becoming friends.

This is NOT a story about friendship.

This is NOT a story about "the power of friendship."

This is NOT a story about "redemption;" nor are any of the characters on a "journey of self-discovery."

This is NOT a story about learning how to "move beyond pain to live again," etc., etc., so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah...

To tell the truth, this movie isn't really ABOUT anything at all, per se.

Am I saying that this movie is a cinematic version of the Seinfeld series?


The thing is, though each character has serious issues and serious pain, these issues do not seriously impinge upon how they relate to each other. Their interactions are, for the most part, fun and lighthearted.

In other words, there is no sentimentality. This film will have none of it, and that is to this movie's enormous credit.

If there is an "arc" of any kind at all, it might be how the trio's friendship is strengthened by coming through something of a rough patch. But I shan't "spoil" it for you, if you haven't seen the film.

I give this film a 7.5 out of ten.

I like this film, but it suffered, in my estimation, because, again, the"dwarf" stuff was over the top and irrelevant. I wished that Fin (Peter Dinklage) could have been given a source of pain other than being short.

Aside from that, though, I give this film a very strong recommendation.

"And that's the bottom line," as Stone Cold Steve Austin used to say.

Thank you for reading!


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