Retro Review: The Station Agent

The little movie that could is what “The Station Agent” is being heralded as across the country. So what is all the fuss about and could it house one of the most overlooked talents in movies today?

Finn McBride (Peter Dinklage) is a small man who likes to keep to himself. His life centers upon his obsession with trains and a hidden sub-cultural fascination with the railed vehicles.

When Finn’s closest and best friend dies, he finds comfort in withdrawing as he inherits an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey.

Finn’s world remains simple and he does all he can to make it that way even with his huge loss.

Upon arriving in his supposed solitude, Finn meets an enthusiastic hot dog vendor named Joe (Bobby Cannavale) and a conflicted artist named Olivia (Patricia Clarkson). The three lonely souls develop a friendship and much to Finn’s surprise a sort of family.

The kinship, dialogue, infectious journeys of these characters is the pinnacle to what makes “The Station Agent” a gem. We love the characters and as they grow we love them more.

The casting of Dinklage, Cannavale and Clarkson is probably a pure stroke of genius.

Their performances are utterly perfect, Clarkson especially. Dinklage is timeless as Finn and does a brilliant job on hanging onto his character’s obsession.

Clarkson is emerging as an actress striving for the tops of her profession. Making her film debut in the 1987 Oscar-winning film “The Untouchables”, she has made a lot of brilliant character-actor styled appearances. It wasn’t until the short-lived 1995 television series “Murder One” that I really noticed the depth, charisma and majesty of this actress. She played the bewildered wife to Daniel Benzali’s obsessive and folliculy challenged lawyer in the revolutionary courtroom series. She was an amazing talent and still is today some 8 years later.

With memorable character roles in films like 1998’s “High Art”, 1999’s “The Green Mile”, 2000’s “Joe Gould’s Secret” and 2002’s “Far From Heaven”, Clarkson is finally being recognized and emerging as one of Hollywood’s unmined talent. With this film and the controversial “Dogville”, Clarkson continues to find more and more great characters to play without stepping out completely into the spotlight. Just when is the Academy going to recognize her.

The only small problem I had with “The Station Agent” was the film’s eventual conclusion. It leaves the audience in an awkward; develop your own conclusions kind of mind. This seems like such a complicated ending for such a simple film. I think we deserved more.

The film does prove that no matter where you go and no matter how far you run, you will always find family. That in itself is magic.

(4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Note: I saw “The Station Agent” as part of the Calgary International Film Festival where I also attended an assortment of short films. Two short films that were a lot of fun and I thought I should mention as part of this review were a comedy called “The Ninja Pays Half My Rent” and a claymation short from Australia called “Ward 13”.

Both were so good that they need to be recognized by a larger audience. I could so see “The Ninja” short as a hysterical sitcom and the animators of “Ward 13” following in the footsteps of the brilliance Aardman Productions, who brought us “Chicken Run” and “Wallace & Gromit”. So watch for these little films as well.

For more information on this films check out these links:

The Ninja Pays Half My Rent


Ward 13



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