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flick pick | The Station Agent 2003
Directed + written by: Thomas McCarthy
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Raven Goodwin, Michelle Williams
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: feel-good
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Fin McBride doesn't get why he can't walk anywhere without folks staring. He's a dwarf, sure, but as far as he's concerned, he's just a normal, boring guy. But strangers have a tendency to make rude comments, or fall all over themselves to be extra-kind, or simply gape open-mouthed; they take pictures like he's some sideshow attraction, ask him stupid questions about his height. They make a great big fuss over him, when all he really wants to do is go through life quietly, indulging in his favorite hobby of trainspotting, or reading up on trains. Trains are really the one thing Fin genuinely loves; he works in a model train store owned by his only friend in the world. When his friend dies suddenly one day, Fin's left an inheritance that might seem an odd gift for any other person: an abandoned train station in a middle-of-nowhere New Jersey town named Newfoundland. Lonelier than ever (though he'd just as much pretend it wasn't the case), Fin moves into the train station, and figures he'll keep on living the life of solitude he prefers. But Newfoundland seems to be a town full of lonely misfits. There's the big little girl who wanders the train tracks by herself, playing in the abandoned train car, expanding her spike collection, who soon begins following Fin around. The garrulous food truck vendor who sets up shop in front of Fin's train station home each day keeps trying to befriend Fin; at first it seems he's maybe just a little curious about Fin's dwarfism, but soon it's obvious that Joe's just another lonely soul, a semi-reluctant Manhattan transplant looking to make a friend in this dead-quiet rural town, where the only other young guys around are your stereotypical redneck morons. Joe's been eyeing a beautiful older redhead named Olivia, an artist who's separated from her husband and still struggling with having lost her little boy two years ago. But it's Fin that Olivia reaches out to: the first day Fin shows up in town, Olivia inadvertently runs him off the road not once or twice, and a sort of friendship is born, despite Fin's best efforts to resist. Soon, Fin finds that he's become a part of all these people's lives, and that they've entrenched themselves in his.

Review When a movie's really good, I don't really care what it's about. The thing that makes a story irresistible for me isn't generally the plot or the setting or any grand overarching themes; it's the characters, and how much they draw me into their world, no matter what that world might be. In the case of The Station Agent, that world's a pretty dull town in Jersey that starts to look kind of enticing once you learn a little something about some of the folks who live there. All three of the central characters, Fin, Joe, and Olivia, aren't immediately lovable, and that's one of the great things about McCarthy's movie: they have to earn your interest, like real world people. Fin's a cold fish, Joe's way too needy, and Olivia's really a bit of a spaz. But all this is just what you see on the surface, and as the movie progresses -- slowly, confidently, at its own unhurried pace -- you see that no one's really as simple to peg as you first think. The acting is subtle and uniformly wonderful, and though there's something undeniably touching (shudder at the word) about the relationships that these characters form, McCarthy never gets cheesy about it: the movie's sweet but very funny, and there's nothing manipulative about its feel-good quality. So nothing at all really happens during the course of The Station Agent, except that you meet a small group of vividly real characters who you really, genuinely care about by movie's end. That's no small feat, though writer-director Thomas McCarthy and his very talented cast make it all look so natural and unforced that you might not notice that.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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