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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Station Agent

by on October 8, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Station Agent”
Rated R
2003

Fin (Peter Dinklage) is used to walking face-forward past insults and taunts directed at his dwarfism. He’s tolerant of peaceable curiosity, but even that’s taken a long time — modestly and silently nodding when told he’s “one of those memorable people.”

He’d give anything to be someone no one noticed — a simple, everyday person just like anyone else. But his conspicuous condition constantly betrays his hermit heart.

Quaint dramas like 2003’s “The Station Agent” succeed by scribbling small chapters in characters’ lives rather than scrawling their entire story. This observant study from actor-cum-director Tom McCarthy simply offered a touching glimpse at Fin and those with whom he struck unexpected friendships.

From his dead boss, train enthusiast Fin inherits a dilapidated depot in Nowhere, New Jersey — a graveyard for decommissioned trains that’s become a haven for decommissioned people such as divorced, grieving artist Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) or irrepressibly chatty food vendor Joe (Bobby Cannavale).

As Fin begrudgingly befriends Olivia and Joe and emerges from his self-imposed shell, he tries helping them through their own troubles.

With a tilted head and flattened expressions, Dinklage details Fin’s solitude in single glances, but his countenance also warms to eventual engagement with Olivia and Joe. It’s an attenuated, reserved and realistic performance — bolstered when we learn Fin is silent because he knows the repressed rage his shouting can summon.

“The Station Agent” speaks to selectivity and salvation: We share our innermost lives only with a chosen few, and recognizing those people is a terrifically soothing sensation.