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Film Review Archive


The Station Agent
Reviewed by Helen Meservey

Peter Dinklage is an actor who's hard to forget. He is dark and handsome with a rich, velvety voice that is as soothing as it is startling. In "The Station Agent", Dinklage portrays Fin, a man so surrendered to solitude that he rarely speaks to people beyond "good morning," "yes," and "how much for the coffee?"

Meant to keep others at a distance, Fin's deep, single-syllable words and unsmiling face have the reverse effect, drawing viewers intently to his story and his plight. Fin, like the actor who plays him, is afflicted with dwarfism. He stands four feet, five inches tall, and he ís used to being stared atóor overlooked. When his only friend dies and leaves him an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, Fin figures heís found the ideal spot to hide from the world and indulge his interest in trains.

Fin of course gets more than trains, finding himself befriended by a gregarious hot dog vendor, played by Bobby Carnavale and almost run off the road by a distracted, grieving artist played by Patricia Clarkson. Drawn awkwardly and amusingly together, these eccentric loners develop an endearing, touching friendship that is as compelling as any love story. In a manner that I found particularly artful, writer/director Tom McCarthy puts Fin at the center of the tale without making his dwarfism the story itself. There are, the filmmaker deftly points out, many ways to feel isolated and alone, and, he suggests, they are not all necessary.

To his considerable credit, Mr. Dinklage delivers a wry, moving and often hilarious performance as a man who thinks he wants to be alone and can't manage to do it. Paradoxically, the trains he so treasures are the very means by which people come together, and he discovers he canít exactly have the former without making room for the latter.

It ís a nice touch, too, that when the film opens, Fin is working in near solitude building miniature model trains. As the trains around him expand to life size, so too does his life, taking on proportions he never knew he had.

Though the film comes perilously close to lapsing into a formulaic resolution, it never does. Even when, about two thirds of the way through, The Station Agent takes on a sort of triumphant oddball buddy flick mood, questions still linger about how itís all going to turn out. Itís almost unbearable. And in the film business, that means riveting.

For KUSP, this is Helen Meservey.