by Brad Nelson
This is a little quiet film. It’s as much meditation as movie. It’s a koan on the act of being and the human need to make connections. It’s a freak show, but the movie lets us know that we’re all freaks and that it’s okay.
A little person, played by Peter Dinklage, inherits an abandoned train depot in very rural Newfoundland, New Jersey. One gets the idea that if isolation and a little bit of peace and quiet isn’t exactly what he’s looking for, he’s at least resigned to it as the most he can expect out of life. But his gregarious neighbor, Joe, will have none of that. And a wonderful sort of “odd couple” movie ensues that soon becomes an odd triple.
I found the characters and relationships in this movie to be very plausible. Many movies go larger-than-life with their characters and situations, and that’s fine. That can work. But “The Station Agent” is a slice-of-life movie of gritty realism, even if that slice you’ve never seen before and do not know exists. But you see it and know that it is authentic to someone’s life.
This movie walks the fine line of making a little person the central figure, and thus taking advantage of the inherent freak-show attraction of this, and yet being far more in-depth and respectful of such a character than I’ve ever seen in a film. And yet the makers of this film do not make the cardinal error of making this film a sort of “movie-of-the-week” about dwarfs and their plight.
This movie is not political correctness or sentimentality run amok. This is a deft handling of the subject. This isn’t about little people and their problems, per se. It’s about how the 99% of the people who are not the “beautiful people” live their lives. And these lives are not automatically noble because they are hard or lonely. They just are. People get by as they can. Life thrusts us into a myriad of situations, and if you put all these situations together it may resemble a carnival, even a freak show, to those on the outside. But it’s just life, perhaps a life that is much more real if only because it is more common.
If you didn’t know already, I thought this was a superb movie. It gets 3-1/4 ubiquitous-cell-phones out of 5. It’s not a movie in which you necessarily come away thinking, “Wow, what great acting.” But the acting is good because it is transparent. You don’t notice that anyone is acting. You never catch anyone doing so. That might be the best compliment one can pay an actor.
A side benefit of this film is that it just might turn you into a train enthusiast. And I suppose all that train paraphernalia on display highlights the fact that we are all travelers through life. But there’s something more that is symbolized by the trains, surely. They obtain a bit of a mythical quality. They seem to be a connection to something larger and grander, and by connecting to that grandness, our small human lives are elevated. At the very least we are saved from boredom and purposelessness.
Give this movie a viewing if you like quirky or “quiet” ones. And if you’ve become a fan of Peter Dinklage due to his great role in “Game of Thrones,” then all the more reason.