Station Agent, The

Rated: R
Stars:  Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Raven Goodwin
Director:  Tom McCarthy
Screenwriter:   Tom McCarthy

Wonderfully original in concept, expertly written and well acted, The Station Agent, is the must-see film of the season, if you happen to be in the mood for something intelligent but low-key.

Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) is a old-time train aficionado who loses his job at a model train store but inherits an old station depot in a small New Jersey town. Having nowhere else to go, he moves into the depot, which is located just off a country road where two abandoned rail cars sit long forgotten.

Being of small stature, well, Fin is actually a dwarf, he’s accustomed to being taunted and so, mostly stays by himself, spending his days walking train tracks in what’s called “the right of way” and reading about his passion. What he didn’t expect is that his presence there would spark unusual interest from several very different people. And no matter how hard he tries, he cannot prevent himself from becoming involved in their lives and theirs in his.

First up is Joe Oramas (Bobby Cannavale), an outgoing hip young man who’s taken over a hot dog vending truck for his ailing father. His unlikely territory is the side of the road, within steps of Fin’s new home. To Joe’s delight, he now has someone to keep him company during the long wait for customers. At least that’s what Joe thinks. Fin does everything to push him away but Joe’s one of those gregarious creatures who won’t take no for an answer and his attempts at friendship are desperate, hilarious and heartwarming all at the same time.

Then there’s Olivia Harris (Patricia Clarkson), a woman trying to recover from the death of her young son and the destroyed marriage that followed. She lives alone in a big house by the water with only her art to keep her company. That is, until she meets Fin quite accidentally, and is sucked into his world through their mutual aquaintenance to Joe.

Lotta says:   The Station Agent is a small movie with choice dialogue and well developed relationships. The bond among these three humans is delicate; it may end next week. But for now, it’s real and inviting, just like this film. It’s rated R for mature themes. I don’t know why — PG would have been more appropriate!

Studio:   Miramax
Production Companies:   SenArt Films Production, Next Wednesday

Reviewed Feb. 2004 for Academy Award consideration