Put simply, The Station Agent is the most moving film I have seen in quite some time. It's a beautiful story about friendship, told beautifully, without any trace of sappiness. It has both a subtle humor and a subtle darkness that leave you feeling both bittersweet and renewed. The filmmaking is simple but flawless and the score (by genius Steven Trask) underplays every seen beautifully.
The story is about Fin (Peter Dinklage), who moves to a rural New Jersey train station after his friend and boss suddenly dies and wills it to him. Fin is quiet and it is clear that he moves to the station in search of solitude. Fin is also a dwarf, which is both what the story is about and not what the story is about. Fin's dwarfism is not ignored in the film, but it's not put on display, either--it comes up, but sometimes it doesn't come up. I have no idea what it's like to be a dwarf, but I think this way of treating differences (or even what some people consider "handicaps") in general is completely effective. There were times I forgot all about Fin's being small, but most of the time it was in my mind, it simply wasn't relevant, or was one of many relevant factors.
Fin's quest for solitude is in vain, as he is befriended in spite of himself by Joe, a hot dog vendor with a dying father (Bobby Cannavale), and Olivia, an artist suffering a great loss of her own (Patricia Clarkson, who should be on everyone's "one to watch" list after her performances here and in Pieces of April. The story runs along in peaks and wanes of their friendship, with no real climax, but an ending feeling of comfort and of finally being comfortable not being alone.
Honestly, I think this movie is a must-see for anyone suffering a recent loss, and really for the rest of us as well. It left my feeling uplifted, but in a realistic way, not a saccharine-high way. The characters are all good people who live, who makes mistakes, and who fall apart and then come back together again.
I'd really like to see Peter Dinklage get an Oscar nod for this performance, and I think Patricia Clarkson deserves one as well. Doubt that will happen, because this just doesn't seem an Oscar kind of film, but one can hope. In the meantime, I am going to be looking for both of them, as well as Bobby Cannavale, in other roles. The acting in this film is outshone only by the amazing writing, a real boon for the first-time writer/director. I'm generally disappointed in movies these days, particularly ones that focus on teh story rather than the sound effects, and it's nice to finally seen an exception.