The Station Agent

The Station Agent

****

Reviewed by: David Haviland

Few actors can truly carry a film. Many play leads, of course, but they are usually supported by a range of distractions, be it action and special effects, or a diverting subplot. Removing the distractions is a risky business, as anyone unfortunate enough to have seen Edward Burns in Confidence will know.

Peter Dinklage is on screen for almost every second of The Station Agent and when he's not, he's missed.

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He plays a dwarf, called Fin, who loves trains and sees himself as a simple, boring man. Unfortunately, everyone else sees him as an object of fascination and the film subtly reveals the implications of this, as a shopkeeper brazenly takes his photograph, or a schoolgirl asks which grade he's in.

Fin inherits a station office in a deserted area of New Jersey and moves in immediately. He's a quiet, dignified man, who only wants is to be left alone, but his good looks and prepossession make him a magnet for the locals and, despite his best efforts, is forcibly befriended by Joe, a gregarious hotdog vendor, and Olivia, a mother in mourning. As the story develops, we and Fin begin to understand his loneliness and the risks that friendship brings.

The Station Agent 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, so the first time they have dinner together we're surprisingly pleased.

It's also a very funny film, with a number of laugh-out-loud moments. Much of the comedy comes in the early exchanges between Fin and Joe, such as when Joe eventually manages to arrange to tag along on a walk and immediately starts calling people to turn it into a group outing.

The Station Agent is Thomas McCarthy's first film and a model of economy and taste. I can't wait for his second.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2004
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A man with dwarfism seeks solitude in rural New Jersey and develops a very unlikely friendship with a hot dog vendor and a painter.
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Claire Sawers ****

Director: Thomas McCarthy

Writer: Thomas McCarthy

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavalle, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, Raven Goodwin

Year: 2003

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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