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Film / The Station Agent

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The Station Agent is a 2003 comedy-drama film written and directed by Tom McCarthy, starring Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams and Bobby Cannavale.

Dinklage plays Finbar "Fin" McBride, a quiet man who moves into an abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey which he inherits when his friend and coworker dies. The withdrawn Fin soon finds himself reluctantly enmeshed in the lives of his new neighbors.

The film won scriptwriter Thomas McCarthy the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Contains the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Area: An abandoned train station.
  • Captain Obvious: Carl's narration of his homemade train movie. Did you know that smoke goes back when the train goes forward?
  • Catchphrase: Olivia's "Shit!"
  • Deuteragonist: Olivia. While the story plays from Fin's perspective, it's her personal issues that drive much of the plot.
  • Discriminate and Switch: Fin has dwarfism, and is also passionate about trains, which leads to this exchange.
    Joe: Do they have clubs for you people?
    (Beat. Fin and Olivia exchange glances.)
    Fin: What?
    Joe (oblivious): You know, like, a "Train of the Month" club.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: A rare platonic version. Joe is really interested in being Fin's friend, despite Fin being absolutely disinterested.
    Joe: So, if you guys do something later, can I come?
    Fin: We're not doing anything later.
    Joe: Yeah but if you do, can I come?
    Fin: ...We're not doing anything.
    Joe: Yeah, but...if you do, can I come?
  • Drives Like Crazy: Olivia manages to almost kill Fin twice in one day.
  • Glasses Are Sexy: Invoked when Fin has a quasi-romance with a librarian and his friends suggest he should buy her some glasses.
    Joe: It's the librarian fantasy, man. Glasses off, hair down, books flying.
    Fin: She doesn't wear glasses.
    Olivia: Well, buy her some. It's worth it.
  • Jerkass: Chris.
  • Job Title: The Station Agent. Although, Fin never worked as one.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The kids in the street mock Fin by comparing him to a dwarf in Snow White.
  • Likes Older Women: Joe says that Olivia has a "sexy smart older woman thing going."
  • Little People Are Surreal: Averted. Fin is really just a normal, fairly boring person who gets frustrated when people treat him as if he's unusual because of his dwarfism.
  • Lonely Together: The central theme of the film, as each of the characters is desperately lonely but in completely different ways.
  • Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: Oh, yes.
  • Manchild: Joe. Some guy playing with kids asks to buy soda:
    "We're closed. I'll play soccer with you though!" (runs off)
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Joe provides an incredibly hammy commentary while he's out train-chasing with Fin.
  • No Antagonist: The protagonists' personal turmoils provide all the conflict.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Fin stops being on speaking terms with Joe after the latter stood him up at The Mill.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Fin
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: A train passes over Fin when he drops on the track drunk.
  • Sitting on the Roof: Fin and Harry chill out on the roof on train club night.
  • The Stoic: Fin. He gets better.
  • Supreme Chef: Joe, who apparently knows what a garlic press is.
  • Title Drop: Late in the film, when Clea asks if Fin is living in the old station like a conductor would have, he corrects her that that person would be the station agent.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Olivia in front of her bathroom mirror.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Harry apparently owned an abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, and bequeathed it to Fin.