Classic Review – The Station Agent (2003)

Title – The Station Agent (2003) 

Director – Tom McCarthy (Spotlight

Cast – Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams

Plot – Born with dwarfism and living a mostly quiet life alone, train loving Finbar McBride (Dinklage) moves to a small rural New Jersey township living in an old train station house where his life of solitude is upended by new friendships with local food vendor Joe (Cannavale) and grieving artist Olivia (Clarkson).   

“It’s funny how people see me and treat me, since I’m really just a simple, boring person”

Review by Eddie on 06/10/2021

Years later he may’ve found peak glory with his Oscar winning box-office smash Spotlight, but actor turned writer/director Tom McCarthy’s true masterpiece lies in a small (no pun intended) character driven dramedy made on a shoestring budget in the early 2000’s with a cast of indie actors, that masterpiece is The Station Agent

Starring future Game of Thrones heavyweight Peter Dinklage in a career making turn as the train loving Finbar McBride, a sad character who has been largely shunned by the world and in turn shut himself off from external friendships or chances at love, Agent may not include set-pieces or key moments of spectacle in its brief sub-90 minute runtime but it’s jam-packed with wonderfully realised performances, heartfelt script writing and a glorious trio of main characters that breathe life into a humanly relatable tale that warms the hearts of those willing to let it sink in. 

Wasting little time getting stuck into the key ingredients of the film, McCarthy quickly moves Finbar on from his hobby shop job when his only friend, the elderly Henry Styles passes away and leaves Finn in charge of a rural train station occupied piece of property in New Jersey, with Agent finding Finn out of his comfort zone in a foreign town where he wishes to be alone with his thoughts and hobbies, with that dream dashed when he comes across Bobby Cannavale’s food vendor Joe and Patricia Clarkson’s inwardly tormented artist Olivia. 

As is to be expected with these type of outcast films, Finn and his new friends establish a unity of lost souls and the films narrative is made up of their unconventional escapades together wondering the abandoned train tracks of the area or sharing a communal meal together and while everything about the film is conducted with small steps in mind, there’s a grace and power to McCarthy’s work here that is beautifully played out by its main cast; of which could all be argued deliver career best works here. 

There’s no doubt that Peter Dinklage’s career would’ve looked a lot different had his noteworthy turn here as Finn not developed such a strong critical and industry notice while Clarkson and Cannavale are both a joy to watch here, with Cannavale in particular showcasing the charm and presence he was later able to bring to unforgettable turns in TV series Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl and supporting turns in the likes of Danny Collins, Blue Jasmine and Chef, with one still hoping that one day someone in Hollywood realises Cannavale is long overdue for a shot at a leading man role. 

With all the elements combining together, Agent becomes an utterly enjoyable and endlessly charming affair, one that may dabble in heavy topics and issues but one that at all times proves moving, full of spirit and most importantly entertaining in all instances. 

Final Say – 

One of the great character films of the modern era, developed entirely through its fully formed characters and unforgettable performances, The Station Agent is a bittersweet ride that will linger long in the memories of those that give it a chance. 

5 Miami Heat guernseys out of 5 

9 responses to “Classic Review – The Station Agent (2003)

  1. Completely agree, saw it back when it was first out on DVD all those years ago (already?!) but always liked it, great write-up! Think I’d forgotten it was Bobby though, he’s a good one.

    • Such well written characters, McCarthy when on song can really get in tune with the everyday person! For me this is one of the best character driven indies I can recall seeing.
      E

  2. I loved this movie…why don’t I have it on DVD? Mon dieu. Must remedy. Patricia Clarkson is so lovely in it.

    My favorite part in your review begins with “As is to be expected with these type of outcast films,….” You’ve really captured the crux of outcast films in that paragraph.

    Will you please watch and review the Joe Wright version of Cyrano b/c I’m curious about Peter Dinklage’s performance in it but really am not keen to see it on account of the musical numbers. Even if you end up hating the movie or finding it so pretty to look at and with a decent amount of funny bits but ultimately a snooze, I bet your review would be much more enjoyable to read than the movie would be to watch. (^~^;)ゞ

    And, if the opposite were to be true, that the singing actually adds to the whole thing, then I’d consider watching it.

    • A proud addition to my dvd collection this one! Made such an impression on me when I first saw it.

      I am looking forward to seeing this Wright film, think it heads to Aus in decemeber.
      E

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