When his only friend dies, Finbar McBride moves to an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, to live the life of a hermit. His attempt at solitude is soon interrupted, however, by interactions with his neighbors, including Olivia, a struggling artist coping with the recent death of her young son, and Joe, a thirty-year-old with a talent for cooking and an insatiable hunger for conversation--whether anyone wants to talk to him or not.
The remote outpost that a dwarf named Fin (Peter Dinklage) settles into, a rundown train depot in the wilds of New Jersey, is such a restful space that it seems perfect for him. Tom McCarthy has such an appreciation for quiet that it occupies the same space as a character in this film, a delicate, thoughtful and often hilarious take on loneliness. Fin, with his low, rational voice and intense stare, has moved into the small spot after he inherits it. Mr. McCarthy treats Fin's new life as if his protagonist were emerging from underwater and must adjust to the onrush of aural assault. Much of it comes from Joe (Bobby Cannavale), the relentlessly friendly and talky Cuban who pulls up every day in his food truck to run what must be the loneliest retail location not staffed by a Maytag salesman. Hawking coffee and fanning up a cloud of busy, pushy and likable chatter, Joe elbows his way into the taciturn Fin's life. Mr. McCarthy wrings contrasts from the serene, diminutive Mr. Dinklage — whose dignity seems unassailable until finally ruffled, when he lets loose a thunderbolt of hostility — and the big, buffed Cannavale, whose unremitting volubility is sheer charm. Their relationship is goofily enthralling. A movie about a dwarf certainly flirts with being cringe-worthy, at least in the abstract, but Mr. McCarthy deals with his creations as characters. What's most important about Fin is the detachment he imposes on himself — his resignation with loneliness. — Elvis Mitchell
2003-10-03 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of The Station Agent