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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: The Station Agent

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.

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4 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: The Station Agent”

  1. […] reserved portrayal of repressed rage in 2003’s “The Station Agent” displayed his range. Today, his Emmy-winning turn as Tyrion Lannister on HBO’s “Game of […]

  2. [...] Thomas McCarthy, a character actor who made his debut behind the camera with 2003′s “The Station Agent,” constructs a movie that’s not really about wrestling, though there’s plenty of action [...]

  3. Nick Rogers says:

    Dustin: Thanks for the compliment and thanks for reading! It really is a small-scale masterpiece, and, yes, Cannavale is terrific in this film. Every time I see him in something else, I smile to myself solely because it elicits memories of his surprising, sensitive turn here.

  4. Dustin says:

    I love that this movie was included in the Heroes of the Zeroes. I’m usually not one to watch movies a second time even if I love them. I feel that there are too many that I haven’t seen to watch the same one more than once. That said, there are definitely some exceptions and The Station Agent is one of those movies. I randomly watched it by myself on DVD on a Saturday morning a few years ago and then the very same day watched it again with my wife. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved everything about it. Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson were great, but I think Bobby Cannavale stole the movie. Awesome write-up on one of my favorites…