Riding with ‘The Station Agent’
Ashley Jo Will
Currently, Peter Dinklage is best known by many people as Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series “Game of Thrones” which begins its fourth season on April 6, 2014. Dinklage was born with achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. Although “The Station Agent” is an older film released on DVD on Jan. 10, 2012, I had only heard of it recently while volunteering at the state spelling bee when another woman volunteering recommended this film to me as I was waiting to grade written spelling tests. The woman wrote the name of the film down for me and when I looked it up on the Internet, I learned that “The Station Agent” included Dinklage’s breakout performance when he earned multiple awards for his acting in a leading role. “The Station Agent” also received accolades at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. I decided to take the advice of my fellow volunteer and see a previous performance from the actor I knew by name because of his role as Tyrion. Like Tyrion, Dinklage plays a serious role in “The Station Agent” but as a friendless man who has inherited a train depot.
Fin is a quiet man who loves anything to do with trains. He works in a model train store with his friend named Henry. Fin is seen painting models in the back while Henry works at the front counter. This is the perfect scenario for Fin because he feels uncomfortable when he is around people except Henry. People often stare at Fin because of his short stature but Henry doesn’t treat him any differently and acts as if there is nothing abnormal about Fin’s appearance. Henry and Fin are also part of a club for train fanatics where they watch a movie showcasing the path of a particular train filmed by a train chaser. One day Fin hears a loud noise and he finds that Henry has collapsed on the floor of the store. Henry has died unexpectedly and this forces Fin to leave his comfortable life of solitude.
The model train store is scheduled to close and as part of Henry’s inheritance, Fin is left a piece of property in New Jersey, which includes an old train depot. The lawyer tells Fin this information and says, “There is nothing out there.” This phrase is ideal for somebody who wants to be left alone. Fin leaves his home and moves into the aged train depot. There is not a lot of furnishings in the depot and it needs a lot of work but it seems like the perfect home for a train enthusiast. At first, Fin’s new home appears to be secluded but his hoped-for solitary life is soon interrupted.
A man named Joe operates a food truck close to the train depot nearly every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Unlike Fin, Joe is sociable and he doesn’t give up trying to befriend the train depot inhabitant. Joe brings coffee to Fin’s home and repeatedly asks to hang out together. Like Henry, Joe doesn’t stare or treat Fin differently because of his size. Other customers come to Joe’s food truck and mock Fin and it is clear that Joe doesn’t appreciate their actions. A couple of guys invite Joe to play baseball and tell him to bring Fin but the little person would only serve as their amusement rather than be treated as a normal ballgame participant. Fin gives in and allows Joe to walk the train tracks with him and watch the trains go by. Another person enters Fin’s life when she almost runs over Fin … twice. This reckless driver is a woman named Olivia. Like Joe, she also incessantly tries to be Fin’s friend. Olivia spends her free time painting while living alone after being separated from her husband. Olivia is an emotional wreck ever since her son died in an accident two years ago and the woman feels guilty about the tragedy. For some reason, Olivia allows herself to become close to Fin and Joe. In addition, Fin becomes acquainted with a friendly librarian named Emily. This girl compliments Fin and like Joe and Olivia, she doesn’t seem to see Fin’s size as an issue. An elementary-school girl is also intrigued by Fin. She sees Fin as interesting because she also enjoys trains and hopes that Fin will speak to her class about them despite his hesitation of speaking in front of a crowd.
With the help of Joe and Olivia, Fin is able to take a ride in the food truck and be a train chaser by keeping up with the locomotive and filming its route. This is a joyous occasion in Fin’s life. Yet Fin is reluctant to bring people into his life. He is used to people merely staring at him and using his size as entertainment. Fin notes, “It’s funny how different people see me and treat me because I’m actually a simple, boring person.” The concept of people actually liking Fin for who he is rather than liking him because he is a little person appears a foreign concept. The abundance of people becoming close to Fin all of a sudden causes Fin to feel crowded. At one point when Joe is insisting on hanging out, Fin says, “I want to be left alone, Joe. That’s what I want.” Olivia also wants to be left alone after her former husband arrives at her door to tell her something important. Fin attempts to visit Olivia but she tells him, “Get off the porch and leave me alone.” Without Joe or Olivia, Fin visits a bar alone and receives unwanted glances from people around him. Fin had said previously that he doesn’t like bars but something compels him to enter the establishment and an event occurs that night that may change Fin’s outlook on life. Despite Olivia’s earlier command, Fin doesn’t give up on his friend and realizes perhaps he doesn’t want complete solitude after all, especially when solitude includes the absence of the beautiful Olivia and the friendly yet sometimes obnoxious Joe. Take a ride and chase a train or two with Dinklage as Fin in “The Station Agent”, which is available at Rock Springs Library of the Sweetwater County Library System, and remind yourself that a couple crazy friends can be so much better than being alone.