The Station Agent (2003)

Poor Miles Finch. He’s so sad.

Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) wants to be left alone. But at 1.3 metres, fading into the crowd is an almost impossible task. Born with dwarfism, Fin has responded to the unsolicited attention that his condition attracts by choosing a life of separation. Solitude, however, is fleeting and when Fin finds his isolation threatened he retreats deeper into his self-contained world by taking up residence in an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey, USA with two people he meets: Joe (Bobby Cannavale) and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson)

Writer/director Tom McCarthy seems like a dude that doesn’t have any problems going on in his life if I had to judge him by the movies he has made. They are all easy-going, and straight-forward with a very pleasant feel to just about all of them. This was his first and shows everything that I just talked about.

McCarthy’s script has a great sense of humor that isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious but is still able to get a few chuckles here and there. Everything just seems so pleasant that when he starts throwing jokes at you, they catch you off guard and you realize that this flick is a little funnier than you imagined it being in the first place. It finds a way to put a smile on your face in any way whether it’s focusing on Fin checking out trains, or focusing on the friendship that forms between these three, very random bunch of people. It does start to get a little darker when it shows how Fin gets fed up with all of the bull-spit about how everybody is making fun of his size and I think it works for this story since one of the main themes behind it is all about overcoming the worst that life has to throw at you by getting up and doing whatever makes you happy, with whoever you want it with too. Nice little life lesson courtesy of Mr. McCarthy.

The problems I had with this film that the script also features plenty of moments where we just see characters doing nothing but sitting there. We get these long, quiet scenes of watching these characters either just stare off into space, smoke a couple of ciggies, drink a little bit of coffee, watch Fin go on long walks on the train-tracks, or just sitting down and reading a book. I get that not every film has to have non-stop talking and never let go of it’s dialogue but there were definitely plenty of scenes here that could have been put to good use rather than just clogging them up with random scenes of silence.

There was also a bit of a problem in the script when McCarthy starts to use some manipulation by the end in order to have us care more for these characters. The film deliberately throws in the whole angle about how Olivia’s youngest son died just so we can gain some more sympathy for her than we already did. Besides there’s so many scenes that are just dedicated to her and her sadness, that it was kind of a bummer that we didn’t see or even have any sympathy scenes for Joe considering he was the character that I liked the most. I don’t think it was wrong to include the whole story about her deceased son, I just think it was sort of lame to throw it in there and try their hardest to gain our sympathy, that’s all.

It’s such a shame that Peter Dinklage doesn’t get more roles because this guy is one hell of an actor. The character he plays, Fin, could have been played by any other actor, but the fact that Dinklage is a dwarf playing a dwarf, adds a whole other dimension and allows us to see the world through his eyes. It sucks what this guy has to go through everyday because of his height. The guy gives a great performance here, as he does with every film, and makes this transition from total loner who just wants to be left alone to a caring friend with problems, seem believable. If I saw him on the streets, I wouldn’t be staring at him because he’s a dwarf, I’d be staring at him because he’s a totally underrated actor that doesn’t really get all of the love he deserves.

However, he’s not the best performance here. That honor actually has to go to Bobby Cannavale‘s performance here as the talkative and friendly Cuban named Joe. Cannavale is so likable here because he’s a guy that just wants to have a nice talk with a person, get to know them, and by the end of it, get to call them his friend. He has a whole bunch of enthusiasm and energy that he brings to the screen every time as he constantly makes sex jokes towards Fin and also takes him out of his shell a bit too. It’s a shame that they make this guy seem like an annoying piece of shit by the end of the movie because if there was anything wrong with him here, it was that he wasn’t around as much as I would have honestly liked. Patricia Clarkson also has another great role here as Olivia, a woman who is battling with depression but still finds ways to be charming and nice. Clarkson is always good in everything she does, and her performance here is no different.

Consensus: The Station Agent may try too hard to gain our sympathy but it makes up for that with a heart-warming and likable piece of work, that is funny, and well-acted by everybody involved, especially Cannavale and Dinklage who should be in a lot more roles than they are usually given.



  1. Nice review to one of my favourite films.

    I disagree about the pauses… I think movies work better with time shown for reflection and it has a certain European sensibility which I liked. Hmmm… gonna have to watch this again myself now.

    Good words geezah!

  2. Great review man. It’s been a long time but I remember really liking this. I totally agree on Dinklage’s lack of work. He’s a great actor and thoroughly deserving of more.

  3. I thought this was a pretty enjoyable movie. I agree about Joe; I really liked him as a character, and even though I can see how he’d wear a person’s patience down over time, he’s just likeable to get annoyed at. I think the reason he didn’t get a “sympathetic” scene is that he’s not a character we’re supposed to feel sorry for in any way; Joe has nothing to be sorry for. He’s the redemptive character in the story, as odd as it may seem; he’s the one that brings both Olivia and Fin out of their shells and back into some semblance of normal healthy lives.

    • I guess when you put it out like that, he really is fine from the start. Still, I think they didn’t necessarily do him much justice. Thanks Morgan!

  4. Fun fact: the role was not written for a little person, just a loner. It was rewritten for Dinklage. This is not the only time that’s happened for him (also Frank Oz’s Death at a Funeral).

  5. I love this film. It was the first thing I ever saw Dinklage in and I remember thinking, “This guy’s a great actor. It’s too bad he won’t get any other roles because of his height.” Shows what I know. He’s had several good roles since then and he’s really come into the public consciousness now with his performances on Game of Thrones.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t have a problem with the slower moments. Also, my interpretation of the storyline involving the dead son wasn’t necessarily to elicit more sympathy for her, but to explain why this woman might be drawn to these two other men – in a way they each give her different things she had with her son.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s