Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Station Agent

Thomas McCarthy (Dir); Peter Dinklage (Fin), Patricia Clarkson (Olivia), Bobby Cannavale (Joe) and Michelle Williams (Emily)

When I went to this movie, I was convinced it was an Italian effort. I'd known about it for quite some time, noticed its run was finally about to end and finally made it to the closing session. Pretty much nothing had stuck in my mind about it except that it involved a fellow who tried hard to get away from people and a guy who was always needy and in his face. While that was kind of right, the only thing Italian about the movie was Joe's ethnic background (actually, he might have been Cuban anyway).

This is one of those beautifully realised American movies which take a tiny corner of America (Newfoundland, NJ to be precise) and sets down some odd people to see what happens. None of the actors were at all known to me, except Emily, who was played by the same actress who played Jen in Dawsons Creek (as well as a surprising number of other characters: As I watched the movie, I was reminded of the Straight Story. Although there was nothing in terms of storyline to connect the two, they seemed to share a sensibility.

Fin is a dwarf - there is no getting round that and it plays a part in the development of the story. His boss in the model railway shop dies and leaves him a disused railway depot out in Newfoundland. This becomes a refuge for him - it does not trouble him that "there's nothing out there, nothing at all". In fact, there is a fellow (Joe) selling coffee and ice cream in his front yard. The way things develop between these two is brilliant - the film really captures the way that many solitary people have of viewing the world, of seeing those who interrupt their solitude as beneath them, as vulgar buffoons. Certainly, this is the first impression we gain of Joe - he is very enthusiatic, has trouble with boundaries and just might be a moron. But slowly, his depths are revealed, he starts to share in Fin's interest in trainspotting and walking the right of way (i.e. along railway lines).

Olivia is another character to whom solitude is vital, she is dealing with the death of her son and break up of a 17 year marriage, but again Joe is blind to her wish to be left alone. He invites her along on the walking trips with Fin, and they gradually open up to each other, as well as accept Joe in their midst. The whole movie, really, is the flowering of these to broken people - giving an appropriateness to the location of the movie.

But it is more subtly done than simply have Fin and Olivia get together: that may or may not happen. I for one am so glad that the movie didn't opt for the simple resolution: all we see is the three of them having a drink together on Olivia's verandah. For all we know, they might become a threesome, Fin and Olivia might become a couple, the three of them might just glide along in contented friendship or maybe Fin and Emily might start to see each other. There is simply no way to know. One thing we do see is that Fin and Olivia both get to see how locked in their solitude they have been and get to recognise a need for others: when Fin tells Joe to leave him alone and is taken seriously, this creates quite a hole in Fin's life.

Emily's place in all this is a little more obscure. She is the hot young librarian, and yet another of the characters who warms to Fin despite his apparent belief that dwarfs are an object of derision. Her main function seems to be to trigger a breakdown Fin has in the local bar, when he becomes convinced all are laughing at and talking about him. This leads him to at least wish he could take his own life - he lays down and goes to sleep on the train tracks - which is a major turning point in the movie.


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5:13 PM  

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